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Reading Week

Do you celebrate Read Across America? We have always celebrated with Seuss filled activities. This year we're doing something totally different and all of our teachers are really excited about the change. This year we will be taking the name literally and read across our great states.  
We celebrate for the entire week with theme filled days that include dressing up, reading with buddies, prize drawings and author presentations.  You can see our new days below.  

A few teachers and I also compiled a list of book suggestions for each day. 
In addition to these theme days, we'll also be having the kiddos guess the number of "bookworms" or gummy worms in the jar.  The student with the closest guess in K-2 and 3-5 will win a book basket.  In addition our kids caught reading at times when reading isn't expected, will be "caught reading".  The teachers submit names to me and I choose a name randomly. The next morning, that student is called over announcements to come down and receive a $10 dollar gift card to Barnes and Nobel.  

After sharing this new theme for our reading week on IG, I had lots of requests for these documents. Below I am attaching an editable form of the parent letter and copies of what I've sent to our teachers.  Click the image below for the documents. 

Another great celebration going on this coming week is 
This beautiful button was made by the talented Lyndsey Kuster and you can see all of the slides and book suggestions on the adorable Tutu's Teacher's instagram account right now.  

Happy Reading Friends! 


February Favorites

This short month is always super packed with activities for Valentine's, President's Day, the 100th day and other fun frozen themes.  So I thought I'd share lots of activities to help you plan.  There are tons of freebies within this post and you can also grab some adorable Valentine's at the link at the bottom of this post.  



     As a school we've mastered lots of literacy.  Our teachers have been using guided reading for almost 20 years.  They do a nice job of teaching comprehension skills as well, but we found we fell short in the area of phonics.   All of our teachers were teaching phonics in whatever way they chose. Some used F and P phonics and some used word families and really focused on phonics during spelling. As the reading specialist I notice that about 80-85 percent of our kiddos have reading strategies and pick up the phonics through the spelling and do just fine.  There is the other percentage of students who struggle and really lack the phonics they need to decode unknown words where other strategies don't work.  You can't chunk up a word when you don't know what the chunks say.  Because we saw this deficiency amongst the grades, we knew that ramping up our tier one phonics instruction was the way to go.

   Several of our teachers attended Orton-Gillingham training over the past year.  If you don't know what Orton is, it's a multi-sensory approach to teaching reading, particularly phonics.  We knew that if all of our children were taught with the Orton-Gillingham method, there would be more fidelity of instruction, especially for those who receive small group intervention.  These kids would be able to go into intervention rooms and be familiar with the process. Orton used to be thought of as just a one-on-one or small group intervention, but IMSE, a training facility for Orton, has really focused their training for whole class instruction.  In an effort to make this process as painless as possible teachers were trained and given all of the materials needed to use Orton in their classrooms.  My friend and I created phonics curriculum map, hearing sounds in words test, dictated sentences and other materials for each grade level.  This year is our first year with grades K-3 using these methods and we are already seeing such wonderful results with children's ability to decode and encode. 

  So what does phonics at our school look like? A kindergarten teacher let me come crash her phonics party so you could take a peek. 
  One of the main parts to Orton is the three part drill. These repetitive drills help students to review all previously learned phonics instruction. Just as the name suggests, there are three parts to this phonics review.  Part one is the Visual Drill.   Students are shown a grapheme and they are suppose to make the sound.

  The next part of the drill is the Auditory Drill. Students are given a previously learned sound and they are to make the sound, as well as write the letter/letters.  This often done is sand, part of the multi-sensory piece, but can be written on white boards, or done in some other medium.   
  The final part of the three part drill is the blending drill.  Students look at the graphemes, previously practiced and blend them together to decode a word.

In my small groups I use plates, as they are cheap, easy and I can pass them out quickly.  See below.

    The final part of the drill is the blending drill. It's easiest to sort the cards on the blending board, as the teacher about did during the visual drill so the cards are ready to go and blend.  Blending is always a struggle for some kids so regular practice with this is an exceptionally important activity.

In addition to these activities that review previously learned phonics, there are several activities that can be done to introduce new sounds, as well just any fun activities you can think of to reinforce a grapheme/phoneme combo.  As students progress through the grades, they also learn to about syllable types, how to syllable divide, etc.  These are all skills that help kids decode as text gets harder.  

We also use a multi-sensory approaches for teaching sight words.  These are called red words. 
Students get out red word books and red crayons
The teacher presents the first red word on the board. Say the word. Say each letter. 
Then students copy the word into their book with a bumpy screen underneath and they will show the teacher their word.
Students and teachers stand up, place right hand on the left shoulder. (If left handed, you’d place your left hand on your right shoulder).
Then the teacher models how to arm tap a red word. 
The student and teachers tap the word three times.
 Students and teachers use their pointer finger to trace over each letter of the bumpy word they wrote. Say each letter out loud while tracing. Underline and name word. Repeat 3 times!
Then the student and teacher place the screen over the page. Use pointer finger to trace over each letter of the word. Say each letter out loud while tracing. Underline and name word. Repeat 3 times!
Finally students will turn their page over and write the word without the screen one time. Once the teacher checks they can write it three more times. They then write a sentence and underline the word in red. 

   If you would like to see some other phonics activities we do to reinforce sounds and hearing sounds in words, you can read this post

I also promised a little phonics freebie. Because students need lots of practice with phonics, we often created games for them to play and practice.  Our second graders have been introduced to most long vowel sounds, so I've created a game similar to uno to help them practice these words.   If you would like to, you can grab the game below.  


The Paperback Pirate

When I say I'm blessed to work with some of the best, that is an understatement. I work with some pretty amazing educators, our specials teachers included. Our art teacher at Hilltop is not only an art teacher but also an author for several books available on Amazon and clip art available on TpT

His most recent endeavor was a book he wrote to be used in our classroom to promote reading.  This story is titled The Paperback Pirate and it was right up my alley because I'm all about pretending I'm in the Caribbean.  Yo Ho Ho, It's a pirate's life for me.  Plus I love being creative and in my new job that is hard sometimes, so I was happy to join a first grade class and make this so fun! 

So first things first, we had to create a pirate ship complete with port holes so that our cute kiddos could look through.  We set the ship up in front of my door, so as they entered the ship they would be in my room (or on the ship).  

Now lets back up.   The first thing we did was read the story.  It's a digital book, so we just projected up on the board.   Geoff also created mini printable versions of the story for the students to follow along.

 Next a pirate's scroll mysteriously appeared telling the students that were to go on a hunt for their treasure.  As they rounded the corner on their search for the Paperback Pirate's treasure, they ran right into the ship and Pirate himself.  
The Paperback Pirate let the kids know they would need to let him know the secret message before entering his ship, so they were off to unscramble.   We added this in, so students could practice their knowledge of sentence structure, their phonics and reading.  As soon as they could unscramble the message, they were to run back to the pirate and whisper it into his ear in order to board the ship.  
Here is the first little matey, reciting the message. 
 Once all students had boarded the ship the Pirate told them his treasure was hidden around the room.  They would be able to identify the treasure because they would see Paperback Pirate bookmarks with each piece of treasure.  The students began their search.  Our art teacher gifted each classroom with 6 new paperback books for the classroom libraries.  He drew cute bookmarks that matched the story and those were in each book.  Below you can see a lucky matey who found some treasure. 
The students were to rush the treasure back to the treasure chest.  Once all books were found, the pirate let the kids know that they would be able to keep the treasure and add it to their classroom libraries.  

It was such a fun activity and great was to promote reading.  
If you would like to grab this adorable activity, just click any of the images below.

For more pirate fun:


First Grade Phonics

 I recently posted some photos on Instagram of Orton Gillingham Phonics activities that I've been doing with my students. As a classroom teacher we've always used word families and reviewed vowel sounds in a million different ways, but as the reading specialist I've learned while our previous way works for probably 85% of our kids, the other 15% learn them for the moment, but never really master the sounds or truly have an understanding for the way words work.  While Orton has often been used strictly for intervention purposes, The Institute for Multi-Sensory Education, where I was trained, has developed training for use of these activities in the whole class setting.  Our teachers are using many of the Orton methods in their classrooms and seeing success they haven't seen in the past, even after just five weeks of school.

     One of the most popular practices in Orton is a review of the phonics skills learned.  This is called the three part drill.  I haven't had a chance to post on this drill, but I found a good post by The Teaching Critic. When you finish the three part drill, if your students need vowel review, they recommend doing the "Vowel Intensive Drill."  I love this drill, because it's simple, and tells you so much about your students' knowledge of vowels.  To begin, each student needs vowel tents. I like to color code the tents so everyone has the same color a, the same e, the same i, etc.   The reason for having them the same color is you can easily scan the room when they hold up their vowel and know whether or not they are understanding.  To start the drill, you can call out the following:

Teacher says: /a/.    The students would then hold up the A and say, A says /a/.   You can continue by saying short vowel sounds and scanning the room as students hold up the vowel that says that sound.  After reviewing the short vowel sounds, you can then move on to a bit harder skill.  The teacher would now say a chunk, such as /et/.   The students would then hold up the E and say, E says /e/.  The teacher could say /ug/ and the students would then hold up the U and say U says /u/.   Finally to further challenge your students you give a short vowel word.  The teacher may say: pot.  The students would then hold up the O and say, O says /o/.   This is a great way to quickly scan your room and not only see the students that know their vowel sounds but also those who can isolate the vowel sounds in words.  To grab vowel tents for your kiddos CLICK HERE!

A video I posted the other day also drew lots of questions.  Where did I get the hands, why is she tapping them before writing? When we teach our students to listen for sounds in words while spelling, we teach them to tap them out.  In Orton when writing sentences, students pound out sentences, as well as syllables, but they tap out each syllable to spell.  As you can see above, we are just practicing one syllable short vowel words.  The little girl above chose a picture card of gum.  She is right handed so she is given a left hand to tap out her sounds.  It's very important that students use both sides of the body and brain.   If this had been a two syllable word like catnip, she would pound cat, then tap /c/ /a/ /t/ then pound nip and tap /n/ /i/ /p/.   After tapping out the sounds I had the kiddos use the boxes to write the sounds and then blend them after and check their word. 
Grab this freebie below: 

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