Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Sharing Your Writing With Your Students

I have the simplest thing to share with you today. Literally. The easiest, simplest idea.

Here's the thing... I love to read, and I love to write. I try to tell my students that; I try to share my literary passions with them. Then one day, I wondered: Do I really share anything significant? I tell them that I love to read and write... but how do I show them? 

I had a brilliant professor in college that stressed that our students should see us actively reading and writing.  We should share those experiences with them. Her words really resonated with me, but the reality of my day is that I shuffle seven intense 45-minute classes each day, and we have so much to do in that very, very little time frame. How/when could I possibly take time to read and write for pleasure at school?

My current classroom is no exception, either. I struggled with this when I taught first grade as well. And third grade. I daresay any teacher would see the dilemma here.

Then one day I realized, Maybe I don't have to necessarily write a lot to make it meaningful for my students...

So I made my own piece of oversized notebook paper with butcher paper, laminated it, and began what I simply called "An Unfinished Poem." On the first day, I wrote only two lines, and I just left it like that, unfinished. My students spotted it immediately. "Mrs. Tally, what's that?" So I told them, "I'm writing a poem for you! We'll read it before you leave today."

And we did just that. We had our class, but before they left, they took turns reading my unfinished poem aloud to me. It became a regular part of our schedule each day, but it took only a few moments just before they walked out the door. Then I started noticing that most of them would check the poem first when they walked into my classroom. They wanted to know what I had written, if I had added anything new. And they reread the entire thing every day.

So I took advantage of those repeated readings! I made sure I incorporated some of the spelling patterns and sight words I was teaching throughout my classes. You can imagine what a proud moment we all had when a student noticed those in the poem! :)
Every few days I added a line or two until I finally ran out of space and time, due to our end-of-year testing. As I wrapped it up, I had to revise the title a bit, which was a great way to reinforce the function of that prefix un.
That's all! We have had so much fun with this, and I have loved sharing even this little morsel of writing with my students. It's amazing how motivated they were to read this every day, just because they knew it was something I had written for them. 

Give it a try! See what happens. You never know; your writing may be just what your students need to help them discover a love of reading. 

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Easy-to-Assemble Blending Boards Notebook

I am so excited to share this today. This is, by far, my favorite "new" thing lately. It's not a new concept at all, but the organization and structure of it is new... for me, at least. Some of you may remember one of my recent blog posts about some new Bossy R materials I've recently released. Well, this whole resource stemmed from the blending board flip chart I included within that resource pack. I shared the whole product with a teacher friend at a nearby school, and she said her students loved the blending board more than anything else. Then she went on to say, "You know, you could create the same thing for other syllable types and patterns as well, couldn't you...?"

Well, yes. Yes, I could. And I did. And I'm loving it.

So that's what I want to share with you today... this new blending board flip charts resource and how to use it in your classroom.

If you are Orton-Gillingham trained, then drill packs and blending boards are not a new concept to you at all. The problem I have is the amount of time spent sorting cards and preparing the right combinations for different groups of students. I teach seven classes each day, with minimal transition time in between classes. I just needed a more efficient way to organize and use those blending board materials.

So this whole idea is based on using a 3-ring binder to organize, store, and actually conduct blending exercises. I color-coded the beginning, middle, and ending sounds for each word so each section of the notebook is super easy to assemble.

But this is my favorite part... within my blending notebook, I have seven different blending boards, including the following:

* Basic CVC words
* Words ending with -ck, -tch, and -dge
* Words ending with -ff, -ll, -ss, -zz (also known as fizzles)
* Magic E words
* Words ending with -nk and -ng (glued sounds)
* Words with digraphs: ch, sh, th, ph, wh
* R-controlled syllables

I simply used tabbed dividers to label and separate each type, and that's it! I have those blending boards ready to use, at a moment's notice, and I don't. have. to. sort. those. cards. anymore. 


It really is my favorite new teaching tool. I know that all of the appropriate combinations are in the appropriate places, so I can either guide my students through a blending routine as normal, or I can hand the notebook over to them and give them control. They love that! I let my students work with a partner to practice blending, and they love to take turns being the "teacher." The notebook works like a flip chart, and they simply flip the cards to manipulate sounds at the beginning, middle, and/or end of the word. It's really amazing how disciplined the blending routine is even when the students take charge with that oversized pointer. :)

Plus, since there are so many blending boards together in one place, students can practice reading with multiple spelling patterns within one exercise. In this way, it provides a great tool for reviewing previously-taught skills.

If you are interested in using this tool in your classroom, you can access the "Easy-to-Assemble Flip Chart Cards for Blending Boards" in the Tally Tales TPT store here. Please let me know if you have any questions or comments. I would love to hear about your experience if you use this with your students!

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Teaching Decoding Skills for Multisyllable Words

I recently had some questions about the syllable bags my students create in our class. Today, I want to elaborate on this a bit.

I am Orton-Gillingham trained, so I follow OG methods for teaching syllable division and decoding for multisyllable words. It's a multi-step process through with students label vowels and consonants to detect patterns for syllable division.

We do this using highlighters, which my students love. You could easily use markers, but the highlighters are typically something different for them, and we all know how appealing that can make an activity for our students! We use one color to write the word and then a different color to mark letters and divide syllables.

When students are ready to divide, then draw a nice fat line from the top to the bottom of the paper, (I cut paper into skinny strips to use for the words.) fold on the line, and rip that word apart! They really enjoy this part. It's one thing to divide syllables --but to tear them? My kiddos love this part.

After the syllables are divided, my students practice reversing syllables to read the word as a nonsense word, or sometimes they may swap syllables with a partner. It's all about manipulating those chunks of sounds to read with accuracy and fluency. My instruction focuses on decoding skills at the word level, so exercises like this really target my students needs.That, and it's fun.

When we are finished labeling, dividing, and manipulating the syllables in a word, my students store the syllables in a zip-lock back I attached inside the back of their folders. It's a simple way to store all of those syllables, but it serves a great purpose for the future as well.

At any point, we can empty our syllable bags and use the word parts to create nonsense words or do a syllable sorting activity. The fact that the students reuse their own work makes it a very personal review experience for them.

At the end of the year, I send the syllable bags home, and it's like sending home a bag of word puzzle pieces. They invest a lot of time in those syllable bags throughout the year, so most of them seem really proud to be able to take them home.

I hope that is helpful for you! Please let me know if you have any questions or would like to know more!

Monday, April 4, 2016

I Can Statements for Phonemic Awareness & Phonics Skills

My class revolves around multisensory instruction for reading and spelling skills. Since I work with students with dyslexic tendencies, I focus heavily on phonics and phonemic awareness skills. This year, I created a common format for displaying "I can" statements for all of my center-based activities. Here are a few of the "I can" posters currently on display in my classroom...
Throughout the year, I have accumulated quite a collection of "I can" statements.
I made a hanging file folder for these alone, so I pull them as needed, depending on the activities I have planned for my students each week. I love having these available and ready to go at all times!
You can now access all of these, and more in the Tally Tales TPT store here! However, I should probably tell you that the ones in the TPT product are cuter than the ones in my classroom; they have colorful, striped backgrounds. :) Here are preview snapshots of some of the posters included in the full pack.
Hop on over to the Tally Tales store and grab a pack of read-to-use "I can" statements for your phonics-based activities!

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Monthly Freebie: Editable April Newsletter

Is anyone else completely stunned that it's already April?!? I'm having a little trouble comprehending that. Regardless, it's time for another freebie! Here's your editable newsletter template for this month! You can download it here.

Happy April, everyone! Hope you survived your students' April Fools' Day jokes!