August 19, 2016

Learning the Alphabet Through Movement - Physical Phonics {part 1}

When students come to us as Kindergarteners, many of them do not know their alphabet or even the letters in their name. Teaching the alphabet and letter sounds are the building blocks of teaching children how to read.  Research shows that using a multi-sensory approach to learning, can help students learn the information in multiple ways and retain the information better. I created Physical Phonics to do just that! Physical Phonics helps meet the needs of all of your students, no matter which way they learn best. I have found that students are not only more engaged when they use Physical Phonics, but they also retain the information and learn their alphabet and sounds quicker. 
Here's a little preview of what is included in my Physical Phonics Alphabet set. 
(turn your sound on)
One of the most important things I keep in mind when introducing the alphabet to students, is to show them proper letter formation. When creating this new set, I made sure to use Kindergarten appropriate fonts and easy to recognize pictures. 

Below are the teacher direction cards. You will use these cards to teach your students the letter and the letter sound all while incorporating movement. This helps the brain learn through a variety of learning styles: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic movement. 
Lesson Example:
1. Say the Sound: First I show the students the card and tell them the sound the letter makes. We say the sound 3 times. I do this because learning sounds is the most important thing to help them become readers and I tell them the letter is how we show that sound. The picture of the little kid at the bottom of the card, lets students know that is what they will say.  
     Remember:When you say the letter sounds, make sure to say them quickly and not add the schwa (uh) sound at the end. B says /b/ not /buh/, make sure that you're not dropping your jaw and accidentally adding the UH sound at the end. If you do, then when students start to write they'll want to add the letter u to many words. 

2. Say the Picture Clue: Then I will tell them the picture clue and how we hear that sound at the beginning of that word.  EX: alligator begins with the sound /a/ I will show them the hand motions we will do to help us remember the sounds. Then we'll practice and say the sound 3 times, then name the pictures EX: /a/ /a/ /a/ alligator  I will then give the class a list of a few more words that begin with that sound and see if they can come up with any. 

3. Say the Letter: Last I will show tell them the letter name at the top of the card. I show them how to write that letter on my white board. They practice writing the letter in the air a few times. 
    
Finally you are ready to put it all together and practice the sound again. Say the sound 3 times, say the picture clue, then the letter.   EX: /c/ /c/ /c/   car   C  (say all this while pretending to drive)

I created instructional videos that you can use to learn all of the movements, but the students really enjoy watching the video and playing along. The video is in alphabetical order, so if you teach the letters in a different order, you can quickly just scroll to the letter you are teaching that day.  There are 2 videos. The 1st is the alphabet with sort vowels, the 2nd is just the short and long vowel sounds. You can these videos with students in whole group, small group, or let them watch it during center time on your computer to give them extra practice.
These ABC charts can be printed as is or blown up into poster size and will be a helpful reminder for your students. One set has the directions on it as a reminder for you, parent volunteer, or substitute.  These would be great to hang up at your writing center, throw in centers for your students to use as a reference, or keep these at your small group table. 
These students strips will be a great resource for your students. Here are a few ways to use them.
1. "Point to the letter ____"
2.  What is the letter after ____ (or before)
3. "Point to the sound ____"
4. Use with the Dr. Jean song "Alphardy" and have students say the names of these pictures instead of the song. "a for alligator /a/ /a/ /a/, b for bed /b/ /b/ /b/...
I created a small set of just the picture cards as well. These are great to throw in centers, use in your small group, or send some home with students to get extra practice. Students could play memory with these cards and the alphabet cards below, match a magnetic letter to the correct picture, or use a wipe off board to write down the beginning sound they hear.
Teachers can never haver enough letter cards either!
Besides learning the name and sounds of the letters, students also need a lot of practicing writing their letters. I wanted to create a writing book that is sturdy enough to last for weeks as you teach the alphabet. 
I also know how much time teachers spend on their classroom, so I wanted to make this book as easy as possible to put together.  Simply print the pages double sided, fold, attach the cover page & staple! I used card stock to make the cover sturdier. 
Here's what the inside of the book looks like. Each page has the picture clue, spaces for students to trace the letters, and then space for them to practice writing the letters on their own. If you want to differentiate this activity, you can have your students draw more pictures that start with that same beginning sound in the empty space on the top. Use these in centers, during writing time, or while you are teaching them the new sound. 
This Physical Phonics set has been in the works for a long time, so I'm thrilled to have it done. I hope you really find that your students learn and retain their alphabet and letter sounds more now that you have incorporated some moment. You can find this Physical Phonics bundle on TPT here

I have also created Physical Phonics Blends & Digraphs set for later on in the year and I'm working on a word work bundle as well. 
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August 7, 2016

How to get FREE $$$ for your Classroom

I have had many teachers tell me how much their students LOVE using my Fluency & Fitness activities in the classroom. Teachers love that they don't miss any instructional time, yet their students get a chance to get the wiggles out. For teachers that want the Fluency & Fitness MEGA bundle, it is a big purchase. What if I told you that you could get it for FREE? One teacher told me that she applied for a grant to get the MEGA bundle for her classroom. I thought that was a FANTASTIC idea, so I wanted to share with your all the different ways that you can get FREE $$$ for your classroom! 

 If you don't know what Fluency & Fitness is, here's a little sneak peek. 
There are MANY companies out there that provide grants for classrooms and many companies are looking to provide grants that incorporate movement and a healthy lifestyle into the classroom. Many of these grants below are technology related, but some of them provide grants for anything and everything. There are also ways to post the projects/supplies you need for your classroom and the public can donate to help your classroom.

Get Donations for your Classroom
Donor's Choose & Target
If you haven't heard of Donor's Choose, it's a great way to get some money for your classroom! You simply fill out a form explaining what materials you need for your classroom and how it will be used. The public can then donate a little or a lot to help fund your project. Many businesses also use this site to match donations so your project can get funded quicker. Sharing your project on social media is an easy way to show your friends and family how they can help support your classroom. 
Even better yet, Target has partnered up with Donor's Choose and they are giving away $5 MILLION toward teacher's projects and classroom requests.  They are funding Health & Sports projects that will help students live a healthier and more active lifestyle. Some of the teachers that have already been funded requested items such as sports balls, balance balls, bouncy bands, pedometers, yoga mats, etc. You can set up your own Donor's Choose page here and find out the details of what types of things Target is looking to fund. The deadline is October 1, 2016.   
PledgeCents
If you like Donor's Choose, you'll LOVE PledgeCents! It's very similar, in the fact that you will list what supplies/projects you need for your classroom and then then public can donate money. You can even ask for annual subscriptions to your favorite websites to be funded. However, the part I love about this company, is that you get to keep ALL of the money raised, even if your project doesn't get fully funded! Check out their website here

Apply for Grants (state/local)
State grants
If you can't find any national grants or your project wasn't chosen to be funded, try searching for grants offered by your state or companies in your state. I just googled "Indiana grants for teachers" and right way this grant program from he Lily Endowment company popped up. They are accepting applications until September 1, 2016. Indiana residents can apply here
Visit your state education website to look for grants. The Indiana Dept. of Education has a few grants listed here

Local Grants
Many school corporations have education foundations that also provide grants. I have received a few $500 from our local education foundation and the form to fill out was one of the easiest! Ask your principal or other teachers if they know of any local grants offered by your school or community. 
                          
                Apply for Grants (corporations)
Corning Incorporated Foundation
The Corning Incorporated Foundations provides a variety of grants for classrooms every year. They give back over $5 million annually to communities. "The Corning Incorporated Foundation grants for local education programs reflect a strong commitment to ensuring an informed citizenry and a skilled workforce. To that end, Foundation funding tends to target innovative and collaborative projects that enhance the teaching and learning of science and math curricula with the goal of improving student outcomes". (Corning Incorporated Foundation website) You can apply for one of their grants here.
NEA Foundation 
If you are a NEA member than you can apply for grants from he NEA Foundation. They have given schools over $7 million in 10 years! Their grants are also open-ended, but you do have to be a NEA member. Visit the NEA Foundation grant website here.
Forum Credit Union
Look for larger companies such as banks, grocery stores, big box stores, etc. that offers grants. I came across this grant offered by the Forum Credit Union for any of their FCU members in good standing. Applications are accepted until September 1, 2016. If you are a FCU member you can apply here.


Teachers Count
Instead of being 1 specific grant, Teachers Count gives you a big list of websites and companies that provide grants. This website is nice because it will break the grants down into categories which may give your grant request a higher chance of getting funded. You can visit their site here

Grant Wrangler 
Grant Wrangler also lets you search many grants at one time. You can search by categories, keywords, deadlines, etc.  You can visit their site here
As you can see their are SO MANY WAYS to get funds for your classroom. The money is out there to support your students and your projects, sometimes you just have to do a little digging! 

July 19, 2016

FREE Lilypad Letters Differentiated Activity

Students need a lot of repetition when learning the alphabet, but it doesn't just have to be with flashcards. This frog themed alphabet game will have your students wanting to work on their letters, sounds, & CVC words!
I found a frog fly swatter at The Dollar Tree and knew it would make a fun game. If you can't find one, I also included a frog image you can just attach to a flyswatter. One way to play is to simply tell the student a letter to find, and they can use the flyswatter to "jump" onto the letter.
I typically only put out about 9 cards at a time, to keep students focused. Once they have gone through the letters, you can add new letters. 
Don't you just love easy games that can be differentiated for your students? Choose between uppercase and lower case letters depending on their skill level. To make this a whole new game, you can have students say the letter sound instead of just the letter.
Students have fun just jumping from letter to letter! For your more advance students, you could also give students a CVC word and have them jump on the 3 letters.

Another fun way to play would be to use plastic frogs and have students "leap" onto a letter and say the letter and/or sound. I've seen these frogs at Wal-Mart, Target, party stores, etc. You can also find them on Amazon here. (affiliate link)
Grab this FREE Lilypad Letters Alphabet Game here!
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July 8, 2016

Helping Students with Phonemic Awareness by Using Differentiated Work

This newly updated Sound Matching Bundle will help your students master those phonemic awareness skills! 
Teaching students to associate sounds with letters is essential for them to be able to become readers. Learning letter sounds takes a lot of practice! These sound match cards can give your students repetitive practice on matching up similar sounds and letter-sound correspondence. The differentiated cards allow you to decide which skill to give your students and which level of cards.
Here's a little preview of what some of the sound mats and cards look like. Isn't there just something so pretty about freshly printed activities!
This bundle includes sound mats to work on beginning, middle, ending, and rhyming sounds. The games are all played the same, so when it is time to switch out your center for a new skill, your class will already know how to play! Easy-peasy!

Students will simply find 3 cards to match the same sound they hear in the picture on top. Below are the beginning sound cards, so students hear /b/ in bee, so they will find 3 more cards that begin with /b/.
I created 2 different versions of the cards to allow for differentiation. Students can use the letters at the top of the card to help them identify the sound they are working on. For this middle sound game, they get a clue that the middle sound is A.
For your higher students, you can have them use the blank cards. They have to fill in the missing sound and then mach up the picture.
If you are giving students the cards with the empty boxes, I would suggest at least telling them what skill they are working on or they may not know if they should be listening for the beginning, middle, or ending sound in the picture. 
I love having 2 different versions to also help students not only match up sounds, but also match up sounds to the correct letter.
Rhyming is another vital skill, so these simple sound matching cards will help your students get a bit more practice on rhyming. You can try this sound matching bundle with a few of these FREE rhyming cards here or if you are wanting the whole bundle, you can find it here
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June 8, 2016

Stop the Summer Slide with These 5 Cheap & Easy Games

It's SUMMER! Time to be outside, play in the water, and have FUN!!! However, that doesn't mean that learning has to stop. Here are some cheap, yet fun games you can play with your child over the Summer.  Many of these items you probably already have at home or can find at the Dollar Store. 
When I think of Summer, I think of water balloon fights with my sisters. Why not use some of those water balloons for learning? Simply write some sight words, letters, numbers, etc. on the sidewalk or driveway. You can tell your child a word and they have to find it and throw a water balloon at it. I would recommend writing the words further apart. As you can see, my 1 balloon splashed over 2 words. 
Use those red plastic cups for more than just parties. Once again you can make this game for sight words, math facts, letters, etc. Kids have fun just trying to stack up the cups, but add a squirt gun and this game is a blast. Have your child read the sight word on top and try to knock it off by squirting it. They can then read all the way down to the bottom of the tower, trying to knock them all over.
These long squirters are from The Dollar Tree and are really fun for squirting each other in the pool! They can also be used to write with!
I'm sure you have some magnetic letters around the house. Throw them in a bucket of water and let your child scoop out some letters. They can read the letter, say the sound, build a word, etc.
Bozo buckets is always a fun and challenging game. I found these ping pong balls at The Dollar Tree and used the red plastic cups again instead of buckets. This makes it harder too! Simply read the letter on the ball and try to throw it in a cup. You can keep score and give your child 1, 2, or 3 points depending on which cup they land in.
Just because it's Summer, doesn't mean you can't incorporate a bit of learning into your everyday fun activities. All of these games can easily be differentiated for whatever skills you think your child may need some extra practice on. If you're looking for more games to play during the Summer, you can read my previous blog post about some Summer Centers. It's full of reading and math games to help your little one avoid the Summer slide!

May 25, 2016

12 FREE Station Signs for Field Day

Field Day is such a fun event for the end of the school year! Don't stress about planning what to do, here are some easy, yet fun games for your class to play. These activities are cheap and easy to throw together! 
To make our field day more fun, we made team shirts. You can easily create a logo with your class name and year in Kindergarten and get the iron-on paper to create the shirts. We had 6 kindergarten classes, so each class picked a different color of shirt. Sadly another teacher had already picked pink. :(
The game below is called "Drip, Drip, Drop" and is one of my favorite games to play! This game is similar to Duck, Duck, Goose--just add water! Kids go around and squeeze a tiny bit of water out and say "Drip" on each kid. When they want someone to tag and chase them, they squeeze more water on that kid's head and say "Drop!!!" then start running. This game is so much fun, especially on a HOT day!! I'm in charge of filling the sponge so the kids don't get totally soaked. :)
 Who doesn't love a little Limbo? It's a perfect field day gay that can be a bit challenging too.
To give students a bit of a break from running around, we throw out some sidewalk chalk and let them have at it! You can find chalk really cheap at The Dollar Tree or Wal-Mart.
The students really enjoyed playing bean bag toss and found it harder than they thought. They got 4 bean bags to throw and try to make it in a bucket for their team to get a point.
Football toss only requires a foam football (Nerf) and a hula hoop. Students simply throw the ball and try to make it through the hoop. 
Hula Hoop Relays are another fun activity. I didn't get a great picture of them in action, but students hold hands and then climb through the hula hoop and have it go over/under their bodies to get around the circle.
Fill the bucket is an easy, yet fun water game for field day! All you need are a few buckets and sponges. Students fill the sponge form one bucket, run to the other bucket and squeeze out as much water as they can. The first team to fill the water to the line marked, wins!
Don't forget to have a water station! It's important to keep your students hydrated. We had popsicles at our water station too. 
Students love autographing each other's shirts from field day! It's a great way to save those memories from the year. 
Click the picture below to grab 12 FREE Field Day signs that you can put at each station. You can attach them to a paint stick, old election signs, orange cones, etc.