Thursday, August 28, 2014

Setting up a Sight Word Station

Last year I had a lot of success with sight words in boosting students from non-readers to beginning readers.  This might seem really basic, but I had third graders coming in who didn't even know all their pre-primer and primer words. Decoding words was a long and difficult process for them, so in the meantime we really hammered those sight words.  I love sight words because all of my students can experience a sense of accomplishment with them.  My process developed throughout the year, and changed even more as I researched over the summer.  My approach this year is a mix of what I did last year, aspects of Word Work from the Daily 5, and this blog post from Teaching Special Thinkers. 

This post contains affiliate links.

First, I assess every student on what Dolch words they already know.  For students who are really struggling, I stop assessing after the primer list-- we have enough to work on by that time! I write the first ten words they missed on index cards, color coded in Orton-Gillingham style (as per this blog post-- I'm not O-G trained, though I wish I was!), and put them on rings.  The rings go on the side of a bookshelf that holds our sight word building materials.  Sight Word Work is a choice for my students when they're not directly working with me (I follow a structure similar to Daily 5, but heavily modified to suit my students as well as teaching in a resource setting), and they can choose to practice their words in any way they want (well, within the choices offered). Here are their options:

Magnetic Letters: Students can make each card on their ring with magnetic letters on a magnetic easel.

Chalkboard: Students write their words with chalk on the child-sized chalkboard ($15 from IKEA!)

Gel Boards: I got these special gel boards through a Donors Choose project, and they're great when you can supervise, but kids can't seem to resist just drawing on them when left alone!

Dry Erase Boards: Students bring down the whole tub and choose a board and a marker to write with. 

Stamps: It took me a while to find a storage solution for these stamps! Kids would spend so much time sorting through the stamps looking for the right letters that they would only get a word or two done during a station rotation.  I bought this 24-section container and labeled the bottom of each section with the given letter.  This way just putting the stamps back helps increase letter recognition! For those of you keeping count, x and z were banished to their own plastic bag so kids wouldn't try to squeeze two stamps per section. 

Every time I work with a student one-on-one, I run through their cards.  When they get a word correct, I add a tally to the back of the card.  I add a dot if they get it incorrect.  When they get five tallies, the card will move off the ring to their learned word box.  Then I put on another word they missed during the initial assessment, always keeping the number of cards on the ring at 10.  Last year everyone just had 5 words per week (though still words specifically for that student) and after practicing all week, I quizzed them on Friday.  If they missed any, those words would roll over to the next week.  I like my new system better because a student has to get the word right 5 times before it gets taken off the ring, but he still gets validation every time he gets a tally mark.  

After students complete any of the sight word lists, they earn a Sight Word Star Brag Tag, which really motivates them to learn their words. You can read more about how I use brag tags in my resource room here.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Library Reveal

My masterpiece is complete(ish)! I am in love.  My library area is adjacent to my desk, and I get a little thrill every time I look over there (not sure what this says about the level of excitement in my life...).  So here's the rundown of how I created my library:

Books: I bought 750 used books from a friend from my teacher program who was switching grade levels.  I went through them a couple days a week after summer school and probably ended up getting rid of a third or more of them.  I threw out any that were torn beyond repair or outright racist (helloooo offensive portrayals of Native Americans), and then gave away ones that were too high for my kids or I knew they wouldn't like (Babysitter's Club). I was also able to get a ton of new, high quality books from First Book, an organization that provides books for free or at discounted rates to classrooms at Title 1 schools. These books are really the gems of my library.  And then of course I've bought some books piecemeal that I thought my kids just had to have.

Organization: I used Ladybug's Teacher Files' Ready 2 Number Library Labels. I LOVE these labels and they were so worth the $10.  I ended up having to heavily edit them because I grouped my books slightly differently.  However, they still give my library a cohesive look and I do love the images and colors. Here are my categories:
Nonfiction/Topics (Green Bins): Animals, Weather/Natural Disasters/Plants/Habitats, Science/Space, Numbers/Math/Language, History, Biography, African American History & Biographies, Advanced African American History & Biographies, Artist Biographies.
Nonfiction/Topics (Black Bins): Countries/Cultures, Transportation, Jobs, Sports, Dinosaurs, Holidays, Marine Life, Dual Language, Social Skills/Helping
Fiction (Green Bins): Realistic Fiction (2), Animal Stories (2), Favorite Characters, Fantasy, Scary/Funny, Historical Fiction, Fairy Tales/Folk Tales
Fiction (White Bins): Mystery (2), Sports Fiction, Goosebumps, Assorted Series, Berenstain Bears, Magic School Bus/Dr. Seuss, School Stories, Poetry, Reading A-Z Decodables

Materials/Decorations: The green bins are from IKEA and are something like $1.60 each. They're kind of awkwardly big for most shelves, but they don't look too bad if you have a whole shelf full of them.  The smaller black bins/boxes are from the Target Dollar Spot-- my favorite place after IKEA! The white bins/baskets came as a set from Amazon (Sterlite brand). The ladybug and colorful pillows are from IKEA.  The bench, beanbag, carpet, and blue pillows were hand-me-downs.  The colorful strand of diamonds came from the Target party section.  And I made that Hogwarts castle last year for a bulletin board when I was teaching Harry Potter!

This was such a satisfying project for me.  It was pretty labor intensive, but I'm so proud of it and I know it was a good investment in my students as readers. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

My Classroom Clocks

I'd seen this idea all over Pinterest, and I'd been on the lookout for foam or paper clocks ever sense.  And then behold, I found some last month at the Target Dollar Spot for, what else, a dollar each! I couldn't do every part of my students' schedules since I work with five different grades, but I got the basics.  It's actually useful for me too since last year I would sometimes forget to send my kids to lunch! 

If you want to make similar signage, I just typed these up in Word using the KG Skinny Latte font. Then I put them on bright backgrounds and ran them through the laminator. For the final step I had to teeter on top of a desk and try to use a staple gun with one hand while the other held the clock or sign! My classroom walls are glazed brick (tile?) for 5 or 6 feet from the floor, and then turn into this weird, burlap-ish material that NOTHING will stick to or into (I have tried: masking tape, packing tape, a regular bulletin board stapler, sticky tac, tacks, and sticky velcro).  Hence the staple gun. 

Friday, August 15, 2014

PD Week & Prepping My Classroom

We just wrapped up Professional Development week at my school and I'm getting so excited for the kids to arrive on Monday! We have a ton of new staff this year, so it was a fun week getting to know everyone.  My room is *almost* ready, but I'm definitely going back on Sunday to put on the finishing touches. 

Check out my library!!! I am a woman obsessed.  I seriously get a little thrill every time I look over there.  I used Ladybug's Teacher Files' Library Labels as a base and then went in and edited the blank ones to make labels specific to my library.  

I also made this little flashcard station on the side of a filing cabinet.  Nothing too fancy, but I like making good use of space.

After I saw this blog post I hunted down a similar toolbox and made my own labels using the editable file included in the post.  My supplies are always getting mixed up with the students' and then I never have any at my desk.  I'm hoping this will solve the problem! 

I've got a bunch of other little projects I worked on this week that I'll be posting about when they're finished! 

Friday, August 8, 2014


I spent the last three days at a "STEM Camp" organized by my charter school network.  I semi-reluctantly signed up for it in June, and I have to admit I was kind of dreading spending my last three days of vacation learning about technology.  Surprisingly, or maybe not so surprisingly since I spend like 75% of my free time working on school stuff anyway, it was a blast! I got to meet a ton of teachers from our network that I didn't know and definitely felt like I had some "camp friends" by the end.  I also learned SO MUCH about integrating technology in the classroom.  The camp was structured so that we had a lot of time to explore and create our own projects.  I'm most excited about the "action research" I'll be conducting this school year.  As part of my vision for this year, I wanted students to develop and track their own goals.  Check out my project proposal below:

I made this video using an app called Explain Everything-- if you're familiar with Khan Academy, it lets you create videos similar to those.  I'll be talking more about that specific resource in another post.

(edit: sadly it appears that the original quality didn't hold up after being exported and then uploaded through blogger.  It's clearer if you keep it in the small view rather than making it full screen!)

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Classroom Inspiration

This classroom actually belongs to an art teacher, but isn't it BEAUTIFUL?  I love the flags and all the colors.  See more here.  

This photo is from Kinder-craze-- it's so cute! It's a little brighter than I'm thinking for my own room, but it's perfect for kindergarten.  

I am in complete AWE over Tunstall's Teaching Tidbits classroom.  So coordinated, so sleek, so organized! The color scheme is very close to what I'm using, except I'm not using as much black.  

You can see more of my classroom inspiration over on my Pinterest page (scroll to the bottom for all classroom-related boards!).  
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