Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Ingredients For Successful Word Family Instruction


It’s the thirty-second day of school.  Over half my kinders are ‘Top Bananas,’ I’ve introduced and we’ve reviewed over half the letters of the alphabet, they showing signs of segmenting and blending, they totally ‘get’ patterns, and I’m feeling like it’s time to introduce word families.  Since you all have had so many questions about this part of my classroom routine, I thought I’d show you a bit more about how I introduce, differentiate and maintain this part of my ELA instruction.  I’m going to warn you, this could be a long one so hang in there with me.

When To Introduce Word Families


Every year isn’t the same.  Some years it’s earlier than others.  Some years it’s later.  It always amazes me that some people know that on the 4th week of school they will start word families.  Until I have assessed, observed and watched my kiddos in action, I never know.  It’s part of the whole "instruct, assess and adjust" cycle which works great for me and for differentiating.  I do like it wait until I notice them easily identifying and supplying rhymes and patterns.  Even for those kids that don't have all their letters sounds yet,  if they can identify and supply rhymes and hear patterns, they seem to understand word families and eventually do very well with appropriate support.  It makes my heart soar when I hear a little exclaim in excitement, "Mrs. McGuire! I see an ~at family word!"
 Free Making Words Placards for Word Family Instruction

Whole Group Introduction/Instruction
I always introduce my word families the same way, one word family each week.  Using these placards (They're available for free by clicking HERE.) 
 Free making words placards

I give my students a chance to move around and see how the family has a pattern and when the initial onset changes the words change.  In the beginning, it's enough for us to take turns making the words with placards, but after a couple of weeks, I have students who are not holding the placards, write the words on a word family recording sheet as well.  
 kindergarten word family list


This gives them just that little bit of additional practice, and they love taking the list home and reading it to a parent.  (You can give them an extra homework punch or sticker if they take it home and read it to an adult and have them sign it.  Kinders love that kind of thing!)  If you'd like to get a copy of a generic word family recording sheet, just click the picture above.)



After this first day of introduction, the word family poster and cards go up on my wall and these become a central point of reference for my students during their word family study.  I can't tell you how often my students refer to these posters or the rings when they are writing and reading.  It's amazing to see how familiar they become with the families and how they can process new words by find the word family chunks within other words.  It's one of those 'ah-ha' moments that make all the rest of the 'oh my gosh will they ever get it' moments disappear!  I live for those moments.

 Kindergarten Word Family Instruction


(I also have a word family rings in case you don't have a huge wall for displaying all the word families.)



Then the rest of the week, I simply do some quick review activities during whole group ELA.  

One day we may do a group sorting activity.  I hand out several picture cards from different word family groups, and the students take turns coming up and placing them under the thumbs up or thumbs down heading in our pocket chart.  The other students give a thumbs up or thumbs down if they agree so that everyone stays engaged.



Another day I might hide different word family words in my morning message.  Students get to come up and circle the word family words they find.  

Get your students in a circle and have one person start with a word family word and go around the circle to see how far you can get repeating the initial word, plus all the words that have come after and adding a new word.  This one usually erupts in laughter, but it helps greatly with students who struggle with producing rhymes.

And still another day I might play a Simon Says type game where I call out 'if cat is part of the ~at family, put your hand on your head.'  Whatever I do for whole group, I try to incorporate movement of some kind, I keep is short and I make sure everyone is involved.  


That's whole group.  However,  the real meat and potatoes, the real practice comes during small group instruction and stations.



Small Group Instruction
Because I use a modified Daily 5 structure for literacy, my small group instruction is called 'Meet the Teach.'  This is the time when I do 'guided reading instruction' which could include on a typical day some letter instruction, sight word work, phonics/word family work and reading depending on the kids I'm seeing.  However, there is almost always  some kind of word family activity included with every group.

Here are just a couple of examples of the different activities we might do:



Mr. Munchy Mouth Sort-We use this handsome devil to sort out word families. I throw a couple of different families together and have them decide if it belongs to the word family that Mr. Munch Mouth is eating that day.  This is a classroom favorite and definitely keeps them engaged.

Word Family Hide 'n Seek- This can be played in small groups as you begin word work study, but it often becomes an activity that you can place in your stations and students easily play it independently with others.  Word cards are placed in a pocket chart and one student hides the 'hide-n-go seek' card behind a word family card while the other students try and guess where it is by reading the words on the cards to indicate their guess.  The student that guesses where the 'hide n go seek' card is located, gets to hide it next.

Show Me The Money:  This is simply where I offer different materials (chalk boards, white boards, magnets, or even paint chips) for students to use to write a word family word that I show them.  They hide what they have written and then when I say 'show me the money,' they reveal their word to see if they are correct.  

Thumbs-Up/Thumbs Down-I will say/show a word to my group and they use the thumbs up/thumbs down cards to indicate whether they are part of the word family.

Word Family Memory Match:  Played just like traditional memory but with your word family pictures and cards.  This too often becomes and independent station after a few weeks when students 'get' the rules and routines of playing it. 


Stations/Independent Work
Each of the activities in stations/independent work are initially introduced in small group or if it has a response sheet component to it, I use my document camera to practice filling it out with my students.  I want to make sure that students understand the procedures and expectations well before I just put them in their stations.

In my room where I use a Daily 5 that is modified, I actually have 2 Word Work stations.  Word Work Station 2 is dedicated to sight word study and fluency (letters at the beginning of the year), and Word Work Station 1 is dedicated to Word Families and Phonics.  This is where I will put all my word family activities, rhyming activities, digraph, blends and the like for students to use.  There is usually one or two 'must do' activities and then many many things that they can choose to do after.  By keeping these activities familiar and by only changing the skill or word family, students feel incredibly successful here.  They have practiced the activity with me first, they understand the work, they can manage the materials and, because it's differentiated, it's challenging but not frustrating.

Ok, so here is what my Word Work #1 (Word Families/Blends/Digraphs/Rhyming Work) stations look like in my room. 

Each drawer contains a different activity. There's a sensory bin activity on the top as well. I had mentioned before that some activities move from small group to stations so you may find the Word Family Matching game here, Word Family Hide and Seek or the Word Family Card Games that are available for each short vowel.

Additionally, there are some other options as well.

See-it, Say-it, Write-it:  These are self-correcting mats and cards that allow students to look at the picture, make it (with beads, magnets or a play-doh stamper) and then write it.  Once they have accomplish that, they simply open the card to see if they are correct.  Changing up the materials they use from beads to play-doh to magnets, keeps this activity fresh and fun.

Write the Room for Word Family Words:  Nothing says kindergarten engagement like write the room.  Students travel the room in search of word family cards and record their answers on their sheets.  If I don't want a lot of paperwork lying around for this activity, I simply laminate the sheets or place them in a laminate sleeve.  

I don't like to use a ton of paper pencil activities for stations.  But if I do, I want it to be a bit more interactive than just your typical 'work sheet.'  These printables that I include in stations, hit the mark.  I always introduce these for the first time through using my document camera and complete them together so everyone understands how they should be used. 


I Spy A Word Family:  These tiered I-spy sheets have students searching with magnifying glasses for word families hidden in the picture. 

Word Family Maze:  Students use bingo dotters to get from one picture to the other by dotting the word family words.  Who doesn't love using a bingo dotter?  Haven't met a kinder yet that doesn't.


Morning Work/Homework/Printables
And when you just need a response sheet, morning work or homework, I use the following.  I introduce these the first week of work families by having students follow along and do them with me as I complete them using the document camera and that seems to help greatly!!! 

Word Family Slide:  Students make a word family reader by cutting and sliding an onset slip in front of the word family rhyme.  They read the words to a friend who signs the back of their slider.  It's a nice item to send home with students so they can read to their parents.

Color, Count and Write:  Students color and count word family words at the top of their paper and then graph that many words by writing them on the graph below.  It's differentiated so that students that need that support of writing their letters correctly have it.

Say, Make and Write Word Family Words:  Students cut and glue word family words and then write them next to their corresponding picture.  My students always need more and more and even more fine motor practice so I love using this one whenever I can.

Independence and Differentiating
The key to keeping these stations and activities independent is having your students be familiar with the activities and procedures.  I have 22 weeks of short vowel word families (and there are also CVCe and Digraph sets as well) and they all have very familiar and understood activities.  This makes my life infinitely better when working with small groups and makes my students feel successful.  'I can do it myself,' is a phrase that is music to my ears.  And they can do this all by themselves.  Even when it comes to tiering an activity, my students know how to find the one that is intended for them.  They don't have to search around or waste time.  I have organized my tiers by color and their Daily 5 name tags indicate which color they should use.  It's so simple and they totally 'get' it.

When they go to a station, they know to look for their 'color.'  By color, of course, I mean the color tag that their name is written on for Daily 5 stations.  These colors may change weekly depending on what we are working on, but they have gotten into the habit of checking so that when they come to a station, they simply look for the item (I usually use envelops or pencil cases) that has their color and know that this is their activity.  This way, I can have three students at three very different levels working on the same activity.  

For instance, I may have three students working at write the room for word families.  One student may only be writing the onset to match the picture and make the word.  Another students may be writing the complete word.  And another student may be writing the complete word to complete the sentence on his/her sheet.  Each student is engaged and working on their own level of readiness.  It's a good thing, and it makes word family word work successful in my kindergarten class.



If you have questions about word family word work, please don't hesitate to drop me a line, and don't forget, I also have digraph 



and CVCe word families 




that go along with the 22 different weeks of short vowel word family work.  I hope you'll check them out.



Sunday, October 12, 2014

Custom T-Shirt Mega Giveaway from Freebielcious



Every once in a while,  the girls at Freebielicious discover a really awesome product for classroom teachers that is so amazing, we just have to share it with you! Today is one of those days! Get ready because we are hosting a super cute giveaway for custom classroom t-shirts from ClassroomFaces.com. We will be giving away a class set* of custom t-shirts to THREE lucky Freebielicious fans! Isn't that amazing? 








These are NOT your average t-shirt designs. The people at ClassroomFaces are so creative, they found a way to print a collection of drawings from every child in the class on the set of t-shirts, to create a truly custom design! Nobody else in the world will ever have a t-shirt exactly like the one your class designs. The website may be called "Classroom Faces" but there are SO many more options for children to draw than just their face. Sample designs on the website show creative ideas using student handprints or drawings of the school mascot.




Since the Freebielicious girls are such good friends, we designed our very own set of Classroom Faces t-shirts. We enlisted the help of our talented friend (and fellow Freebie gal) Nikki from Melonheadz to create custom drawings of each of our faces.




The finished t-shirts were absolutely ADORABLE! I absolutely love my new custom Freebielicious t-shirt from Classroom Faces.com.



About Classroom Faces

Creating a class set of t-shirts featuring your students drawings is easy. Each child just needs to create a simple drawing. To create t-shirts with one-color ink on a solid colored t-shirt (like ours) each child needs to draw their picture using a fine point black marker. The ClassroomFaces website has downloadable templates that you can use to guide your students. Full-color illustrations on a plain white t-shirt are also possible. Look how cute these t-shirts are! 



Extra Savings for Freebielicious Fans

Freebielicious fans that order a class set of tshirts can save $1 on each tshirt and receive 1 free teacher tshirt with their order using promo code FREEBIE14. Orders must include 15 or more paid shirts to qualify and must be postmarked by December 31, 2014

Enter to WIN a Class Set of Custom Classroom Faces T-Shirts

Now that you have seen how ADORABLE these t-shirts are, it's your chance to try and win a set for your classroom. The wonderful people at ClassroomFaces are graciously giving away a class set* of custom t-shirts to 3 lucky Freebielicious fans! Each set is valued at over $250. Stop by the Freebielicious blog for your chance to WIN! 





*Up to 24 tshirts will be included in each prize pack. Winner can choose to order a class set of traditional single-color tshirts or tshirts will full-color illustrations. Additional t-shirts can be purchased for $11 or $13 (depending on t-shirt size and style). Shipping is free for winners that live in the US. If a winner requires shipping outside of the US, the winner is responsible for shipping costs. (Shipping to Canada costs between $5-$20 depending on weight and location). 






Sunday, October 5, 2014

Stitch Fix #10 Is All That And More Plus . . . A Giveaway, too!


I love all things fall and Stitch Fix has not disappointed me with any of their fall selections for my #9 nor #10 fix.  This fix was all that and more.


Besides being a great service for people like me who don't like to shop, Stitch Fix is just plain fun.  It is seriously like Christmas every time I see that package waiting for me.  The anticipation of finding out what might be inside is excruciating.  I'd love to rip it open, but I always wait until I have the time to really enjoy finding out what my stylist picked out for me.


So without making you wait any longer, let me show you what treasures my stylist chose for me this time.

First up was this Shea Thermal Cowl Neck Top.  I grabbed this item up first, because the color called to me.  I love the olive color and it suits my coloring.  I couldn't wait to see how it fit.  My stylist had suggested wearing it with jeans. . .  



 . . . or a pair of leggings.  I prefer the look with leggings (don't mind the wrinkles from being in a box).  It was long enough that it covered all the 'essential' areas,  and the piece is also so comfortable.  I could totally see myself wearing this in kindergarten.   I knew this one was definitely a keeper.




The next piece my stylist picked was this Zoey Mixed Material Watercolor Print Top.  It didn't really do it for me when I saw it in the box, but, as with all my fixes, I like to give the clothing the benefit of the doubt and try them on.  You just never know, right?  Well this piece surprised me.  It's actually very comfortable and a fun piece with lots of detail.  I feel like I could pair this with dress pants or a pair of jeans and it's something a little 'different' from what I would normally pick for myself.  


This Crissie Knit Textured Sleeved Moto Jacket was next.  I don't know what a 'Moto Jacket' is exactly because, as you know, I'm not into all that fashion jargon, but whatever it is, I love it.  I had asked my stylist to send me a jacket.  I was thinking a little something more traditional, but this piece is so fun, I love how it feels, the colors once again are perfect for me and it looks great with a casual pair of jeans. 



I also found this Garren Geo Knit Raglan Top in my box.  If I can't have fall colors, then please give me black. Thank you very much.  This top is going to be so versatile for me.  I can wear it with a skirt or pair of slacks to work, or pair it with jeans and boots.  And it is SOOOOOOO soft.  


Finally, I had asked my stylist to consider sending a pair of jeans that had a different cut other than the two pair of 'skinny' jeans that I wear non-stop from them.  When I pulled out these Kate Boyfriend Jeans, I wasn't quite sure if they were what I had in mind.  They were long!  But wait, my stylist said, they are meant to be cuffed!  Seriously?  Cuffed!!??? I hadn't worn cuffed jeans since I was little when I would get the very much coveted hand me downs form my older and just a bit taller cousin.  I wasn't sold on it, but, again, I took my stylist's advice and tried them with a pair of slings . . .


What do you think?  They're cute.  A little loose fitting compared to the skinny jeans I've been living in, but in the end, I decided I had to have them.

So there you have it!  Another great fix, and I'm keeping it ALL.

Don't know about Stitch Fix?  Well, let me give you a quick run down of how it works.  It's really quite easy.   For $20, a stylist will take your size, preferences and style profile into account as they pick out five pieces of clothing for you to try.  If you decide that you love any of the pieces they send you, your original $20 goes towards your purchase (win-win!!) and anything you don't want, goes into a pre-paid envelope and is returned to Stitch Fix.  If you decided you love everything they send you, then not only do you get to add your original $20 onto your purchase, but they give you a 25% discount off your order as well.  


You decide how often you receive your fixes and you also decide the price range.  It's so fun, so easy and a great way to get unique pieces that no one else will be sporting. 

I love it so much, I'm having a giveaway so that one of you can get started on your own fix.  All you have to do is enter below for your chance to win.  In the meantime, you should check out Stitch Fix.   Just click HERE.   You can create your own style profile and link up a style board if you have one on Pinterest.  That's a great way for your stylist to 'see' what you really like.   


a Rafflecopter giveaway



And because I just know you want to increase your chances of winning, you should head over to blogging pals, Maria from KinderCraze and Mary from Sharing Kindergarten.   They just got their latest fix and are doing giveaways too.


Kinder-Craze






I know you're just gonna love checking out what they found in their own Stitch Fix box.







Saturday, October 4, 2014

Engaging and Extending Skills With Familiar Differentiated Stations


I love it when stations start humming along on their own engines with very little need for intervention or instruction from me.  I changed over new stations for math this week and Daily 5 in order to accommodate some October/Autumn/Halloween-ish themes and was delighted to see that the activities that we practiced with a back to school theme, were engaging although familiar.  And while they were happy with the new themes and familiar fun stations, I was delighted that I was able to extend their skill base without having to change EVERYTHING they already new how to do.


Bead work has moved on from letter order to beginning letter sound for many of my students.  I have a couple that are reading for ending and cvc words, but I want them to really get the process down and feel success before I move them to that next level.  Similarly, I still have a couple that are just working on letter identification.  They all get to work with beads.  The activities all look very similar, they just get to address the skills they really need. (These self-correcting cards are actually from my Read-Park-Write pack but I can use them on my bead mats to change things up a bit.)

Initially write the room was merely counting and recording with my Back To School Math pack, but I already have some of my kinders working with ten frames through 20.  Here one of them records the ten frame number and then identifies what numbers come before and after.  Not all my students will be able to do this activity at this level of difficulty, but they all will be able to write the room.  (This is a highly coveted station in my class, so I always make sure I have one going for Daily 5 and math stations at all times. I mean, who wouldn't love to have an excuse to move around the room trying to find hidden cards?  It's like a giant treasure hunt.)



I am always amazed that kindergarteners don't get bored with activities that are familiar.  This 'Boo Brew' game is included, as one skill set or another, in all of my word work and math packets.  It's a simply concept of having items they need to identify in order to locate a hidden cards.  I have it for letters, sight words, word families, numbers . . . you name it.  But they love it.  During Back To School math stations, they learned how to play the game with numbers 0-10.  But as I have started to progress monitor them, I have those that are still working 0-10, but others that are working on numbers 0-15, 0-20 or higher numbers.  They love the familiarity of it and the feeling of success.  They don't need me to play the game.  In the words of my most independent and self-confident kinder this year (They are a precious gift let me tell you!) . . . 'I got this Mrs. McGuire.'  I love that kid.


I-spy activities are another staple.  I always have them in math and Daily 5.  With back to school, we learned how to use them by mostly matching capital to lower case letters, but some of my students are branching out and becoming more confident with beginning letter sounds.  They find the letter on the mat (It could be written as a capital or lowercase letter.  This is how I know they really found it and aren't just writing the beginning letter sound without searching for it on the I-spy mat.), circle it on the mat, and then find the matching beginning letter sound picture.  Some are still matching capitals to lowercase and working on letter identification, but I love being able to give them all the same activity without having to sacrifice the ability to challenge my students as needed.


Spinners are still a favorite in my class.  It's nice to be able to build automaticity with numbers and counting and not have to frustrate those students that are still struggling with skill.  This student can work on numbers 0-5 while his neighbor works on numbers 10-20.  I can continue to group my students by criteria other than readiness, and they still get what they need.  Don't know where to get transparent spinners?  Click HERE to see the ones I just purchased.  

Students at Yatta can work with numbers 0-5 or 0-10.  Changing out the theme has given this activity new life and excitement. 


When I do this self-correcting activity for community helpers theme time, I use keys to show ten frame numbers, but my students' interest in this station is still as strong when they get to use Halloween markers.  Some will work on number order while others working on making ten.  Still the same activity, but at their own skill level.



I don't think I'll ever give up offering play-doh mats for math stations especially.  Is it just me or has fine motor ability taken a drastic nose-dive this year.  My kinder friends NEED all the fine motor work they can get, and I keep them one challenging by offering ten frame or making tens skills.  They love the different themes and the scented of special colors that I provide based on the theme.  (Can't wait 'til Christmas!  Peppermint play-doh is the BEST!)

These are just a few stations happening right now in my class.  But they give an idea of the familiar activities and the extension of skills that I can offer because the activities are familiar and differentiated.  


I can't imagine NOT offering stations in classroom, but I know there are still those rooms that run strictly on whole group instruction.  As always, I believe whatever works for your students . . .!  For mine, stations provide the practice, experience of feeling successful, independence and differentiation that allow my students to store.  





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