Sunday, February 21, 2016

How I Recycled Desktop Calendars to Make Elkonin Boxes

Here's the thing about teachers... we are excellent scavengers, and we hate to see good materials go to waste. Call it a common, inherent trait, or credit it to necessity... either way, we find a lot of ways to use things that other people would probably toss out. 

My latest example? These desktop calendars. You only need one, right? Well, I ended up with four or five. But I just couldn't throw them away. If nothing else, I knew they would make perfectly good scrap paper. After much thought, I came up with another activity that I wanted to share with you.

Really, this is so simple... I covered the numbers on the calendar. I used stickers on some of them because I wanted to laminate a set that I can reuse as needed. For the rest, I just used a marker and colored a circle over each number.
I used white-out to cover any information about holidays, and I cut off the days and months information. A perfect grid of squares remained.
The next part is simple. I treated these like Elkonin boxes for students to use to map sounds and encode words. The covered numbers served as great touch-points for sounds! This group is reviewing ways to spell the long i sound. I provided pages with various pictures that featured different spelling patterns for long i. The students chose a picture, cut it out, and then touched and said each sound in the word before stamping letters to spell the word onto the squares.  (Note: the touching and saying elements are very important here in order to create a multisensory effect for this exercise.)

Also, as another side-note, if you are working on a phonics concept for which you need pictures, you can access a great free collection of reproducible images here.
The large squares made an easy canvas on which students could use letter stamps and glue their pictures alongside the words. While they still had to be very intentional about their space, (particularly with a magic e word or a vowel team), these squares provided adequate room for them to stamp multiple letters as needed. They loved the fact that they each had such a huge piece of paper all to themselves, too. I was surprised that they expected it to be a partner activity because they paper was so large. When I told them they would each get their own, they were so excited! It's the little big things, isn't it? :)
After they finished, each student presented their words to the group. They reread the words, touching each sound and blending the word together. Then they briefly discussed the different spelling patters they each used for the long i sound.

So I realize you may not have a stack of large desk calendars on hand to replicate this activity exactly as I have used it. However, I wanted to share this as a way of encouraging you to take advantage of any materials you can recycle to create something like this for your students. I still cut up the unused edges of the calendars to use as scrap paper, but I'm glad I stared at these calendars for a few days put a little thought into this before I cut each calendar to pieces. If you have something sitting around that you just can't seem to throw away, hang in there! It just may become a valuable resource for your students eventually. :) 

Good luck!

Sunday, February 14, 2016

A Multisensory Activity that Really Pops!

If you use multisensory teaching strategies at all, then you are probably familiar with sand-tracing. If not, then it's not too difficult to figure out or implement into your small-group instruction or center activities. We use sand-tracing to practice and reinforce sounds and spelling patterns for sounds. I have seen it used for sight words as well, and while I can't say that is necessarily wrong, my Orton-Gillingham training stressed that sand tracing should be used mainly for practice with sounds. I fully support whatever works for your students, but do keep that tip in mind when you are planning to use sand trays in your classroom. 
This activity just puts a little spin on the typical sand-tracing exercise, and it was really engaging for my students. With this particular class, I have been teaching different spelling patterns for long vowel sounds. I wanted to do a little more with these sound spellings, since they are often more challenging for students to retain for long-term application.

First, I gave each student his/her own notecard with the vowel spelling pattern written in red. They traced this vowel pattern while stating the corresponding sound aloud three times.
Next, I provided sand for each student. As you can tell, I use crayon boxes instead of sand-trays. I like having a lid on top to help control the mess, and the top provides a nice "prop" for any cue or drill cards I want to use during lessons (like this one). The student traces the letters into the sand, while, again, repeating the corresponding sound aloud.
Last, the student uses pom pom balls to fill in the traced letters in the sand. Overall, this provides a fantastic 3-dimensional experience with the spelling pattern!
Naturally, each child is able to put his/her own "touch" on the activity as well, as they choose which colors and sizes they want for the pom poms. Here are a couple of different ones created by my students. I love the way that even a simple activity like this enables them to express their own sense of individuality into the lesson; that leads to a greater sense of ownership, which, as we all know, heightens the value of that learning experience for the students. 

If you decide to use this activity, or some variation of it, in your classroom, please feel free to share your ideas with me! I would love to see how you use it with your students. :)

Monday, February 8, 2016

A Sweet Multisensory Syllables Activity

Sometimes it's difficult to establish real-world connections for my students with the topics we discuss. Sure, we use techniques that can readily translate into their independent reading, and I always strive to promote carry-over with their homeroom classes. Still, it's not likely that they'll do much arm-tapping in their spare time, and I doubt they use sand trays very often outside my classroom. I am constantly challenging myself to find ways to help them realize that the things we do really are transferrable to the "real" world.

For example, we work with syllables constantly. Counting syllables, dividing syllables, identifying syllables, sorting syllables... these are daily features of my instruction with all classes. Considering this, I wondered, How can I get them to see syllables elsewhere?

And then I walked down the candy aisle while grocery shopping...

This week, I have one group that has been working on closed syllables, ending with the -tch pattern. So I picked up a box of sour patch kids.
I provided students with a printed version of the box image. First, they color-coded the differed sounds in the word "patch." This helped them to visualize the three different sounds that compose this word, as well as the letters used to spell each sound.
Next, they used sour patch kids to map the sounds beneath the letters, one piece of candy per sound.
Then, they each practiced reading the word, touching the "sounds" beneath the letters.
Beyond this, we used the sour patch kids to map sounds for additional -tch words. Of course, I let them enjoy a snack along the way, but even eating was a teachable experience; at times, they had to tell me each sound before they ate it, while at other times, I dictated which sound they could eat.

They had so much fun with this!

Another class is working on R-controlled syllables. For this group, I used Starburst!
Since this is a two-syllable word, we worked through our typical process of labeling and dividing the syllables in the word. 
Then, the students used starburst candy pieces to map the syllables, rather than sounds, for this word.
We transferred this idea (and continued using the Starburst pieces) to other multisyllabic words with r-controlled syllables throughout the lesson as well. 

In all, this was quite productive (and fun) for me and my students. It added a little extra flavor (sorry; I couldn't resist!) to our typical process for syllabication and sounds mapping. Not only this, but it also helped my students to realize that syllables are not just confined to schoolwork; they can use their knowledge of syllables outside the classroom as well. :)

Next up: Consonant-le Syllables!!!