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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: 


Decorate and Motivate

I love using motivational quotes and cute prints around my classroom to decorate.  You can refer to them throughout your day to build kids up or just laugh. I also just love looking at them. They inspire me.
So I thought I'd offer you are few cute prints for your classroom free. 
To grab the prints above fill out the form below.
For other prints that may match your classroom click the images below.  


Back to School Buys

This post contains some affiliate links. This means I earn a small compensation when someone clicks the link and makes a purchase.  
If you are a shopper like me then Back to School is exciting in more ways than one. I love finding new items to take to school and make teaching a little easier, prettier and even more fun.  I've created a list of some of my favorite items for back to school. 

So I'm jumping on the cute backpack bandwagon.  3 of my cutie pie blogger friends own it and after seeing my friend Stacey's in real life, I decided it would be great bag to take to and from school each day.  

I also bought theis cute little pencil pouch to carry both my writing tools and office supplies home and back.  The have some really cute pencil cases at this site.  It was really hard to choose but the tassels get me every time. 

I also bought this cute lunch box.   I love that it's nice and roomy.  
I also bought these cute little containers on Amazon.  I was inspired by a video on Facebook to create healthy meals ahead of time in these containers and grab them out of the fridge.  

I of course could not pass up this great deal on Amazon.  You will not find this many dry erase markers for this cheap, EVER!   
I am also super excited about this next purchase. If you don't have an Amazon Echo Dot for your classroom, then you better watch this video by Kayse Morris.  She has 50 ways to use these in your classroom and just the first few (ie. set a timer, spell words, play music, picking a number) and I was sold.  I'm telling you, Kayse is genius with this one. 
Another thing I absolutely love and use all the time is my polaroid instant printer from Erin Condren's site.  I love taking pictures of my students, events at school, etc. and having this to quickly print a cute little photo that the students can use for writing and other assignments.  It uses an app on my phone and I can easily print any photo on my camera roll. 

So these are few of my favorites for this back to school year.  I hope you all have an amazing school year.  
Happy Teaching! 


Sound Strips Freebie

Do you love the Target Dollar Spot as much as I do. I mean at what other store can you spend 50 dollars before even passing the first real aisle?   I certainly couldn't pass up these cute little letter clips and knew I would find many ways to use them.  One of the activities I created were these Sound Strips.  Grab a FREE set of sound strips that can be used in preschool, kindergarten, and even the beginning of first grade for some kiddos. This activity also comes with an "I Can" card and directions. If you can find the clips, you could always just buy clothespins and label them with letters, or just laminate the cards and have your students use a dry erase marker to write the corresponding letter. 
Fill out the form below to grab this activity.  This will also give you access to future freebies and ideas through my newsletter.

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As we start this new school year I thought it was important, especially for teachers new to the field to talk a little about relationships.  They are at the core of what we do, how our year goes and how our students and families feel about school. They are definitely most important.

When I started teaching I knew exactly what type of teacher I wanted to be.  I learned early on in my education what embodied a great teacher, as my first grade teacher was an amazing example.  I didn't have to read published articles or books to figure out that relationships are what make you the teacher that your students love and remember.

The following are some ways I build relationships with my students and the people they love the most.

1. Get to Know Them
This may seem pretty darn obvious, but I'm not talking about a survey.  Before school begins I send a letter home introducing myself, my family and some things about our classroom. I let the parents know what to expect at "Meet the Teacher" night, a little bit about how the first day, first morning will go and give them some other important information. In addition, I have my parents write a letter about their child. I'm telling you, letters are the way to go.  When you send home a generic survey you are going to get back generic answers.  When parents are given the freedom to write a letter about their child, you will get so much more! I love reading the letters before school begins and having a connection with my students the first time they walk in the door.  Also remember that you can build relationships with many of them the year before.  Make an effort to get to know students in the grade below.  I loved getting to know many of the kindergarteners in our building when I taught first grade.

2. Invite Them
I know many teachers like their classrooms to themselves but inviting parents to join you in the classroom is important.  I taught first grade for 14 years, so I loved the help. I had parents help with center time, parents help during writing time and invited parents in to reading and writing celebrations.   Parents and grandparents were mystery readers in my classroom and I loved to honor them for Mother's Day Tea and volunteering at the end of the year.  I feel so passionately about building relationships with my student's families. So much so, that I still have parents help me in my new position, even though I haven't taught their children in years.

3. Love Them While Leading Them
In the first week of school not only do we work on procedures and rules a ton, but I also make sure that I get to know my kiddos and let them know how much I love them right away.  These are my babies for 7 hours a day and it's important they feel safe and cared for.  I really kill them with kindness right away. This way when you have to discipline, they know that while you may disagree with their behavior your not mad, but disappointed.  Little ones do not like to disappoint you.  Be firm when you have to, but make sure you are having fun with them too.  My kiddos often get nicknames, I know their likes and dislikes and respect them. I take the time to sit with them in small groups and one on one daily. Sometimes we are working on school stuff and other times we may just talk. Conversation with my kids is just as important as teaching them.  I can lay down the law and laugh with them all in the same minute.  When they love you and respect you, it's a lot easier to manage your classroom. 

There are many other ways to build relationships. I can go on and on, but these three are key.  Before you can teach them, you need to know and respect them.  It's then when you can really be the teacher they need.  

Below is an example of how relationships make all the difference. The sweet girl who dropped off this gift on my birthday this past May is now in college. When she was in my first grade class she was a cute little stinker.  And I mean stinker.  She was quite a talker and often not on task.  I wondered sometimes if I was too tough, but hoped that she always knew I loved her just as much as the kiddo who rarely had to be redirected.  I didn't need a gift, but knowing hat our time together meant as much to her as it did me, even 11 years later, means the world.  

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