Friday, August 26, 2016

Back-to-School: Calendars for Parent Communication

In the back-to-school spirit, I want to showcase my favorite new set of calendars for this year! They're available in black-and-white as well as color formats, so you don't have to use your color cartridges if you're trying to save on ink.

I like to use these to manage parent contact events at school as well as my own personal connections with parents. Home communication can be so overwhelming at times, and I have tried several different methods for managing it. I've discovered that my favorite method is to have one binder, with a calendar included, where I just jot down those daily communications. I put these in a three-ring binder so I can easily insert notes or forms from parents as well each month!

Of course, you don't have to use these for parent communication; they are calendars, after all! I just thought I would share my little idea, but feel free to use these as needed for any type of planning. I also have the same set of calendars available in an editable format, in case you prefer to type in your personal information before printing each month. Check them out in the Tally Tales TPT store!

Happy planning, teacher friends!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Parent Conference Freebie: Sign-In and Sign Up Pages

One of my goals this year has been to begin the year with a day devoted to parent conferences only. I know a lot of school districts mandate this for their teachers as often as once per semester. While our district does not have that policy, our administration is highly supportive of the concept, and I know some of our classroom teachers have managed to organize a day like this within our school. Since I pull students out of their regular classrooms to attend my small-group instructional class, my time at the beginning of the year is a bit more flexible for scheduling purposes. We cannot actually start meeting with our students until all the beginning-of-the year assessments, scoring, and grouping has been completed. For me, this is a great time to meet with parents, because I am in the process of establishing starting points for my students, and I want to communicate that information with parents as well.

Since I've never had a Parent Conference "Day" before, I wanted to make it as organized and as efficient as possible. I tried to create paperwork that would document the information I needed. This is what I came up with...

I started with a letter that not only explains my purpose for the conference, but also provides an option for parents to schedule their conference. I also created a reminder note to send home just a few days prior to the conference.

I made two versions of a sign in sheet: one to sign in and one to sign up for my e-mail mailing list.
If you are interested in using my Sign-In/Sign-Up Pages for parent conferences in your classroom, you can grab those (both color and black-and-white versions) for free here!

Next, I made a note-taking page for myself, where I could document any pertinent information from the conference. I also think a simple follow-up is cordial, so I will send this "Thank you" note home, just to let parents know that I'm grateful for the time they spent meeting with me.

That's it! What do you think? All of these materials are available in both color and black-and-white versions in my Parent Conference Forms & Notes product here.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Do It Yourself: Dry-Erase Labels for a Classroom

This post will be pretty basic, and not all that spectacular, but I wanted to share a recent little DIY project for my classroom. If you're like me, you always keep an eye on clearance sections wherever you go, just in case you spot something you could use in your classroom. And if you're like me, every now and then you get lucky and actually use something you have grabbed in a really productive way. This is one of those times!

I really love Paper Source, but I seldom get to actually shop there. However, on a recent visit to Nashville, I stopped by their Green Hills location and found these cute adhesive labels among their clearance items. Truth be told, I picked up a few packages for gift wrapping, but these yellow ones have come in handy in my classroom. I paired them with this red chevron scrapbook paper (found in the clearance section at Hobby Lobby, of course).
I simply attached the labels onto the chevron paper...
Then I cut them apart and laminated them individually. (By the way, if you're a teacher and you don't have your own personal little laminator, it's totally worth the investment!)
I cut apart the laminated labels and attached these perfect little magnetic discs onto the back of each one. 
And that's all! The lamination provides a dry-erase surface, so you can write-and-wipe with ease. I needed these for a word-building station, where my students will use magnetic letters to build words. I made extras, though, so I'm prepared to use them for any labeling needs that may arise! ;) 

Friday, August 12, 2016

Editable Back-to-School Teacher Notes FREEBIE!


I am so excited to give these sweet little "Welcome Back" notes to my students! Since my day revolves around multiple small-group classes, I have students coming to me from other classrooms all over our school. While we establish great relationships within our small groups, I sometimes feel like it takes a while to get to that point; I only see them for 45 minutes each day, and it usually takes a couple of weeks before we start having class consistently, due to initial testing, scoring, and grouping that must take place after school starts. I am hoping these little notes will be a great way to reach out to my students and personalize their experience with me, even before they come to me for their first day of class. 

I think anyone, in any classroom setting, could put these to good use: send them as postcards, use them on the first day of school, or include them in meet-the-teacher night packets! I have created them in an editable format, each with three text boxes that can be adapted to feature any information needed. They're also available in four different color schemes (including a black-and-white version) with three different clipart embellishments on each, providing 12 different note templates in all! The best part is that you can grab them for free in the Tally Tales TPT store! Hop on over, and grab a set. I hope they will be useful for you! 

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Sharing a Love for Reading with Your Classroom Library


I have always made it a priority to have a classroom library, where my students could check out books in addition to those they access in the school media center. I usually keep my library organized by reading levels. Our school uses the Accelerated Reader program, and it has always just made sense to level my books according to that guide, so my students could easily find books on their  reading levels. 

Last year, however, I reconsidered my organizational method here. While I think it is so helpful to have books organized by reading levels, I began to wonder what message I was sending with that arrangement. Where was my emphasis, with books arranged in a way that made it easier for students to find a book on which they could take a test? 

Ultimately, I want to share a love of reading with my students. I want them to read to enjoy books; not read to take tests. I know, I know... taking tests are part of the process and one way we measure comprehension skills. Still, they get those books from the media center; is it necessary for my classroom library to serve that purpose as well? I think not.

So I started thinking more about what it means to love reading and how I choose books to read. I look for topics that interest me. As I read, I may make decisions to discontinue reading if that book is too difficult for me, but chances are likely that I will still stick to a topic of interest when looking for another book to read as well. 

So basically,  reading levels have very little to do with my book selection. I know I'm an adult, but children are more than capable of making decisions about the readability of a text as well, if we teach them how to do so. 

So when considering the way to do this - how to foster a love of reading while teaching children to make responsible decisions about the texts they read - I think it makes more sense to start with the "enjoyment" part than the book "level." I can easily teach a child various ways to determine whether or not a book is on his/her "level" for reading; I want them to start out thinking of books in a much bigger way than reading levels. 

So I decided to reorganize my classroom library by topics, rather than levels. I categorized all of my books into a few common, easy topics that I thought might appeal to my students! As one of the topics, I decided to feature some of my favorite books. Would you believe that this is often the first basket my students dig through?!? They love to find books in my "favorites" basket that they like as well. It helps us connect through books without demanding any extra time or "work" during class. 


The reading level for each book is still written on the inside cover, so my students do still have an easy reference point for the readability of each text before they check it out from my library. Still, the book level comes after the book interest, and I am hoping that sets the appropriate priority for reading in our classroom.

What about you? How do you organize your classroom library for your students? 

Friday, August 5, 2016

The Ultimate Back-to-School Bundle!

The Back-to-School season is such an exciting (and a bit stressful) time! I am really enjoying my own back-to-school preparations for this year. I finally feel like I have accumulated enough ready-to-use resources that I can pull, tweak as needed, and use right away in my classroom. I have compiled some of my favorites into one back-to-school bundle for this school year! Not only does it feature my best-selling product, the Back-to-School Packet for organizing a meet-the-teacher night, but it also features materials that can be used for instructional purposes throughout the school year as well! 

Check out a preview and description of the contents of the bundle below. You can click the images to access their individual listings in my TPT store, or you can access the full bundle here.

*               *               *

* Back-to-School Packet: Handy Organizational Materials for your Meet-the-Teacher/Back-to-School event

* Reading Response Logs for the Full School Year This packet includes a monthly reading log for a full year of reading instruction (months August through May). Each reading log is designed to accommodate reading assignments for three days each week. On each day, the student will document the date as well as the title/author of text he/she reads. Then the student will complete a reading response exercise. The reading response exercises are designed to best accommodate first grade readers, and the tasks increase in rigor throughout the school year. Each reading log also contains sections for parent initials, thereby making this packet appropriate for reading assignments at home. This packet includes a parent letter template, which explains the purpose for the use of a reading log and encourages parents to take an active part in their child's reading development by monitoring their reading each night. While this packet is intended for use in a first grade classroom, it could also be used in a second grade classroom, or possibly as a model during Kindergarten reading instruction during the spring semester. Each reading log contains a customized header that reflects seasonal attributes for the designated month.


* Back-to-School Syllables: Differentiated Phonemic Awareness Activities3 differentiated activities for building phonemic awareness to jump-start your literacy centers and guided reading groups for the school year. 


* Calendars for the 2016-2017 School Year: Cute printable calendars for the 2016-2017 school year! Festive clip art pictures are included on each calendar to indicate holidays. A color version as well as a black-and-white version is included for each month. Print the version of your choice to use at home, at school, or in take-home folders for your students!


Editable Monthly Newsletters: Monthly newsletter templates that include editable text boxes where you can add relevant information for your classroom. The product features newsletters for a full school year, with one newsletter template for each month (August-May). Each template is created with a black-and-white design, which makes it ink-friendly for printers and copiers. Additionally, each template features seasonal clip-art for each month. These newsletters are great for basic parent-communication on a weekly or monthly basis. 


I hope there's something you can use here! Please let me know if you have any questions or comments. Happy Back-to-School! :)

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Upcoming Blog Topics: August

So it's no big secret that, for most teachers, August is dominated by Back-to-School everything. The to-do lists get astronomically longer, as do the days. Blog topics are no exception this month. Here at The Tally Tales, I will be sharing some details about my back-to-school experiences. I hope you'll stop by from time to time!

Like my calendar? You can get your own set of these calendars for the upcoming school year in the Tally Tales TPT store! I have an editable version available as well!

Happy August!

Sunday, July 31, 2016

TPT Resources: Custom Categories


I hope you have gained some useful information from my recent posts about about Phonological  Awareness and Phonemic Awareness! Since I focus so heavily on these skills with my students, I will continue to develop materials to use in my classroom. For easy access and organization, I have created custom categories in the Tally Tales TPT store. There, you can easily find my Phonological Awareness and Phonemic Awareness activities. I've also separated FREEBIES as well as Literature-Rich Resources there!

Feel free to visit my store and browse through the resources already available there - especially those freebies! I hope you will find something you can use. Also, if you haven't already, please follow the Tally Tales TPT store so you will know anytime I add new resources!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Recap: Phonemic Awareness vs. Phonological Awareness

Recently, I've shared information and resources related to phonemic awareness and phonological awareness. Feel free to visit those original posts if you missed them the first time! Today, I wanted to just give a brief recap of the relationship between these two concepts.

Phonemic awareness is defined as the ability to hear, recognize, and manipulate individual sounds within words. These sounds are known as phonemes. Hence, the term "phonemic awareness."

If you notice, that definition is based upon hearing sounds and words. It has nothing to do with print or associating those sounds with letters. In fact, that is where phonics comes in. See how this works?




Phonological awareness revers to the ability to hear and manipulate sounds. It may refer to phonemes (as in phonemic awareness), syllables, words, and sentences. If this is confusing to you, Dyslexia Help provides an example of what phonological awareness looks like at each level: phoneme, syllable, word, and sentence. As you can tell when working with phonological awareness skills, activities are not restricted to sounds (phonemes) only, which is what distinguishes it from phonemic awareness.  

Again, don't miss that our skill here is auditory; it's focused on hearing. Phonological awareness has nothing to do with print or associating those sounds with letters. 

I'm also sharing a few images below that may be helpful. I've linked them to the original sources, which are full of valuable information as well! I've tried to be thorough, but honestly, sometimes you just need to see it in a more visually-concise form. So here we go! Check out the images below, and click back to their original pages to gain a wealth of additional resources and information about phonemic awareness and phonological awareness.

You can download this file here!
Presentation: West Virginia Phonological Awareness Project
Phonological Awareness: Instructional & Assessment Guidelines





Monday, July 25, 2016

Phonological Awareness: Differentiated Activities for the Classroom

Previously, I shared the importance of phonological awareness development among young readers. If you missed that post, you can access it here. Still, knowing about phonological awareness is one thing; knowing how to appropriately help your students develop it is another. Speaking from experience, I know that it really helps if you have some structured activities to guide you while you're guiding them... especially in those early years of teaching!

Today, I want to share some of my own resources for daily phonological awareness practice.

I created these to use with my own students, to help students develop phonological awareness specifically with syllables. They're great quick, but effective, activities to use daily in small-group instruction. As students become familiar with the routine and gain proficiency with syllable manipulation, you can even transition this to use as a partner exercise.

First, I designed instructional posters that reinforce the definition of a syllable as well as a poster guide for vowel sounds. These are great to use during instructional time as supportive materials, or you can put them on display for student reference during independent activities. Your more visual learners will heavily rely on these as cues when they are working these phonological exercises. 

Next, I created three activities for building phonological awareness. The activities are differentiated to meet the needs of students at different stages of development with phonological awareness. If you weren't aware that there are different stages of development, don't fret; you don't have to do extensive assessments to determine your students' abilities. Observation alone will give you all the information you need to inform your instruction in this area. These activities are designed to easily fit your students at different levels, without being overly complicated.



1. For Students Who Need to Develop Phonological Awareness with Syllables


Use the “Say, Tap, & Count” activity. This activity features picture cards, which should be cut apart into the same number of pieces as the syllables contained in the words. (The cards feature dotted lines for easy, even cutting.) Lay cards for one picture in front of the student. He/she pronounces the word for the picture. Then he/she touches each part of the picture while saying each syllable in the word. The separate parts for each picture help the student visualize and count the syllables in the word while hearing each syllable as it is pronounced.


2. For Students Who Can Hear & Count Syllables Independently


Use the “Sort It Out!” activity. This activity features numbered header cards for a pocket chart or a table as well as corresponding picture cards. Each student draws one picture card. He/she pronounces the word for the picture and counts each syllable he/she hears in the word. Then the student places the picture card under the number that matches the number of syllables in the word.

This sounds simple, and it really is - as long as students have developed this level of phonological awareness. If they have to tap, clap, or do a chin-check to help them count the syllables, that's fine! You just want them to be able to do this activities entirely independently. 

3. For Students Who Can Hear & Manipulate Syllables Independently

Use the “Change It!” activity. This activity features twenty instructional cards for a listening/speaking activity. The teacher reads aloud the instructions as printed on each card. The student(s) listen and follow the instructions to substitute syllables and make a new word. The students say the new word aloud. Each card contains the answer as well as instructions. 

This is entirely an auditory exercise. For example: 

Say airplane. Instead of plane, say bag. What is the new word? (airbag)

I love using these activities, because I can literally watch my students progress from one skill to the next, and it's so exciting to watch their proficiency develop. They enjoy these as well! If you are interested in learning more about these activities, you can access them here in the Tally Tales TPT store

I used this particular set so much that I realized I needed a little variety to keep it interesting and new for my students. Building on this same concept of these three differentiated activities, I created seasonal phonemic awareness activities to use throughout the entire first semester of the school year! If interested, you can access them individually by clicking on any of the following images. 
Back-to-School Syllables
Halloween Syllables

There's also a bundle that contains all of these!
Syllables Bundle
As always, if you have any questions, feel free to comment below or contact me directly through the contact form.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Phonological Awareness: What It Is & Why It's Important


In a previous post, I wrote about the importance of phonemic awareness in classroom reading instruction. If you missed that post, you can easily visit it here.

Today, I want to extend my topic a bit to share information about phonological awareness. If you fall among the majority of teachers (myself included, at one point in time) you may be surprised to learn that there is, in fact, a difference between those two topics.

Before we proceed, let's clear up a common misunderstanding: phonemic awareness and phonological awareness ARE NOT the same thing. Phonemic awareness is defined as the ability to hear, recognize, and manipulate individual sounds within words. These sounds are known as phonemes. Hence, the term "phonemic awareness." This may sound confusing, but don't miss it: Phonemic awareness actually falls under the overarching category of phonological awareness. It's one component of phonological awareness.


Phonological awareness revers to the ability to hear and manipulate sounds. It may refer to phonemes (as in phonemic awareness), syllables, words, and sentences. If this is confusing to you, Dyslexia Help provides an example of what phonological awareness looks like at each level: phoneme, syllable, word, and sentence. As you can tell when working with phonological awareness skills, activities are not restricted to sounds (phonemes) only, which is what distinguishes it from phonemic awareness.  

Again, don't miss that our skill here is auditory; it's focused on hearing. Phonological awareness has nothing to do with print or associating those sounds with letters.



Phonological awareness begins long before a student picks up a book to read. In fact, phonological awareness development is a great predictor of future reading success. It helps students gain an understanding of how sounds work together within all levels of the structure of print. As they develop as readers, they will associate those sounds with letters, which directly impacts the way they blend sounds together to read or to communicate ideas through their own writing.

*               *               *

So you've got this. Now, what can you do?

This answer depends largely on the age of the students you teach. Younger students, or those who are still developing foundational skills for reading, should be exposed to phonological awareness exercises on a daily basis in the form of phonemic awareness skills. Students who have established a reading foundation, but are extending and building those skills (typically 3rd grade and older) need phonological awareness exercises 2 or 3 times per week. For all students, phonological awareness activities are most effective in small group instruction.

The following are some basic phonological awareness exercises that are appropriate and fun for young learners, who typically enjoy playing with words and sounds. You may notice that some of these activities are similar to those identified as phonemic awareness activities. That is common; remember, phonemic awareness is one component of phonological awareness. The structure of the activities may be similar; you just want to make sure the words you use to practice those skills are developmentally appropriate for your students.

I have also provided an example or two to better explain each activity. In a future post, (coming soon!) I will share some phonological awareness resources that I created to use with my students. 
  • Rhyming
Example: Do these words rhyme? knight, write (yes) Can you think of a word that rhymes with repair? (unfair)
  • Counting Words*
Example: Listen to my sentence: The wild monkeys danced and swayed in the jungle trees. How many words are in my sentence? (10)

* This is a great exercise for helping build memory and stamina as well!
  • Counting Syllables
Examples: Say mountain. How many syllables do you hear in mountain? (2)
                Say explorer. How many syllables do you hear in explorer? (3)
                Say magnificent. How many syllables do you hear in magnificent? (4)
                Say parallelogram. How many syllables do you hear in parallelogram? (5)

Note: If your students need extra support with this, they may repeat each word while tapping syllables on a table or fingers. They may also clap each syllable or do a "chin-check" (hand placed under the chin to "feel" each syllable as the chin drops in the pronunciation of the word). These strategies are supportive and should be encouraged!
  • Tapping Syllables: Head, Shoulders, Knees, & Toes
For this activity, the teacher says a word, such as locomotion. Student repeats the word, syllable-by-syllable, while tapping the head, shoulders, knees, and toes. For this word, students would tap their heads and say "lo," shoulders "co," knees "mo," toes "tion." Be careful to only use words with four syllables or less for this activity! 
  • Syllable Manipulation
Examples: Say friendly. Instead of ly say ship. What is the new word? (friendship)
                Say locker. Instead of lock say mark. What is the new word? (marker)

*               *               *

And if you want to know more...

If you want to learn more about phonological awareness and activities you can use, the following list includes what I consider to be some useful, practical sources of information. Start clicking! :)
SaveSave

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Erin Condren Planner Giveaway!

I'm excited to share some giveaway news today! If you haven't already visited An Apple for the Teacher, then you definitely need to stop by today to enter a giveaway for an Erin Condren planner! What better way to start the upcoming school year than with a new planner?!? You'll find The Tally Tales among the list of contributing bloggers, so check it out! :)

Friday, July 15, 2016

Using Elkonin Boxes to Support Phonemic Awareness Development

Since my focus lately has been all about phonemic awareness, I thought I would share a useful freebie that's available in the Tally Tales store. If you are already gathering phonemic awareness resources for the upcoming school year, then you might find this useful for your small group instruction. If you don't already have a set of elkonin boxes, head on over and grab this set for free!
Elkonin boxes are great for building phonemic awareness because they help students focus on segmenting a given word into its individual sounds. If you use these boxes the way I suggest in my How-To guide (also included in the freebie!), then this can also become a very tactile experience for your students as well! 

Sometimes the hardest part is determining which words are appropriate to use with your students. Considering this, I provided three different Elkonin Box sets for words containing 3, 4, or 5 phonemes (sounds). Then, I included a corresponding word list for each set of Elkonin Boxes. Basically, the hardest part of using this resource will be printing it out. How easy is that?!?



I sincerely hope you can use these items with your young readers! Please feel free to comment or use the contact form if you have any questions about this particular resource. Otherwise, head on over to the Tally Tales TPT store and snag it now! :)

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Phonemic Awareness: Activities for Beginning Sounds in CVC Words

Previously, I shared the importance of phonemic awareness development among young readers. If you missed that post, you can access it here. Still, knowing about phonemic awareness is one thing; knowing how to appropriately help your students develop it is another. Speaking from experience, I know that it really helps if you have some structured activities to guide you while you're guiding them... especially in those early years of teaching!

Today, I want to share one of my own resources for daily phonemic awareness practice. It focuses on basic CVC words, so it is a great tool for helping young readers practice sound manipulation. Also, since these activities are built upon the structure of word families, they reinforce rhyme, which is another crucial component of developing phonemic awareness. So you get a double whammy with this one!

I created this to use with my own students, and it's great quick, but effective, activity to use daily in small-group instruction. As students become familiar with the routine and gain proficiency with sound manipulation, you can even transition this to use as a partner exercise.

So, here's a step-by-step explanation of how to assemble this product. After that, we'll talk about how to use it. Both are super easy.

So this is where you start. 

The product includes the following color-coded word families: -at, -an, -ap, -ag, -en, -et, -ed, -it, -ip, -ig, -ob, -ot, -op, -ug, -um, -un. 
 
For each word family, there are six cards with instructions for beginning sound manipulation. With 16 word families included, that means this product contains a total of 96 cards for phonemic awareness exercises with word families!
After printing those, get your paper-cutter ready, and cut them out. They are all aligned squares, so this part goes pretty quickly.
Then punch holes in the top left corners.
Last, use a book ring to attach the cards. 
And that's it! You can bind the word families separately, or you can attach them all together with a big ring. I prefer to bind word families for the same vowel together, so I can easily choose the vowel sound on which to focus my instruction each day.


Now you are ready to use these activities with your students! As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, these are ideal for small-group instruction, but you could certainly use them with students one-on-one if your schedule and class size affords that luxury! 

Each card contains instructions for a listening activity. Guiding students through the activity is easy. Simply read the instructions on the cards. Students will listen to the word, repeat the word, and then change the beginning sound (as instructed) to make a new word. The instructions and answers for each substitution are provided on each card. You can spice it up by having students close their eyes to help them really focus on hearing the instructions. (When you're writing these into your lesson plans, go ahead and include those speaking & listening standards!)

Of course, as students gain proficiency with this skill, you can turn it into a student-directed activity. Simply have more advanced students work in pairs, with one student reading the cards and the other following the instructions.  You can put these rings in a basket for fun free-time activities for your students as well!

If you are interested in learning more about these activities, you can access them here in the Tally Tales TPT store. If you have any questions, feel free to comment below or contact me directly through the contact form.