Sight Words

Sight words are words that cannot be "sounded out" phonetically, and are also words that occur most often in print (similar to high-frequency words).  Sight words are taught as a whole by sight, so students can automatically read and recognize the words in print.  When I introduce a new word as a whole group, I use the "read-spell-write" routine.  First we read the word together many times, then spell it.  As we spell the word, I tap under each letter for the students (if they had their own flash cards or words, I would have them do it on their own).  Finally, we "air write" the word together (holding our pointer fingers up and writing it in the air).  All of these activities can be easily done in small group or one-on-one.

There are many different lists of sight words out there.  Over the years, I have used Dolch lists (mostly pre-primer and primer), lists from my adopted curriculum, and lists from my district.  Currently, I use a combination of all of these lists when I teach sight words in my classroom.  I explicitly teach about 60 sight words throughout the year, and have extra lists and sets for students after they have mastered what I teach.

To stay organized with my sight word instruction, I created a filing system that is organized by word as opposed to activity.  This helps me greatly because I can easily find an activity for each word when I introduce them.  I keep the words in alphabetical order for easy access.  Of course I had to use neon hanging folders; I found some great ones at Office Depot.

Three of the resources I keep in my sight word bin are my Sight Word Practice Pages, my Sight Word Bracelets, and my Sight Word Mini Books.  I use all of these activities on consecutive days, and may not use all three given the difficulty of the word.  These resources all have different purposes.  The Sight Word Practice Pages are great when first introducing the word.  They have students practice reading, spelling, tracing, and writing the word all on one page.  I also added a sight word bracelet at the bottom of the page as an option.  The Sight Word Bracelets are for going on sight word hunts in the classroom and at home.  Students trace and rainbow write the words, then wear them on their wrist for easy access and practice.  Finally, the Sight Word Mini books are intended to reinforce writing the words.

Happy reading!  :)

DIY Letter Wands

My students always LOVE using pointers in the classroom.  We use them for concepts of print practice (pointing to different parts of the books/words/letters), to track words when reading in big books (these pointers are too big to point to words in regular-sized books), to go on letter and sight word hunts around our classroom, to point to letters and words in pocket charts, and to use on our SmartBoard.  I also like to call them wands--I just find that word more fun--and my students agree!

I decided to make letter wands to use when teaching letter recognition, letter sounds, and beginning sounds.  Because I want to use these for letter sounds, I'm using lowercase letters (when I have time, I'll probably end up making uppercase wands as well, and only use them for letter recognition).  The best part of this project is that the final product only cost $16 total!

To begin, I needed wooden letters.  My search began with looking for small(ish) wooden letter blocks that I would end up spray painting in neon colors.  I quickly realized this would be quite expensive and time-consuming, so I rerouted my search to wooden letter puzzles.  I happened upon these amazing wooden letter puzzles from Amazon (duh!) for $11.99 (no tax + free shipping).  They are the perfect size for kindergarten pointers and they are already painted!
For the "wand" part, I bought 30 wood dowels (1/4" diameter 12" long) from Joann's for $1.49 a pack.  I can't find them online, so here is a picture of what I purchased:
Attaching the wood dowels to the wood letters was easy!  I simply drilled a small hole (with a 1/4" drill bit) into the bottom of each letter, added a dot of wood glue, inserted the dowel, and allowed them to dry for a few hours.  That's it!  I definitely recommend using a drill bit that is exactly 1/4" wide; there is really no room for error.  Too small and the dowel won't fit, too large and the dowel will fall out.  The

I'm so excited to have these letter wands ready for the first day of kindergarten.  I have 24 students this year, so having 26 letter wands will allow for each friend to have their own wand (and a couple extra for Miss Morgan).  For the Letter Wands label, click here (I also included a "Letter Pointers" version).  The jar I put them in is from Target, and can be found here.  Enjoy!  :)

Kindergarten Readiness

Kindergarten Readiness Handbook
Kindergarten readiness has always been a passion of mine.  During the summers, I teach pre-kindergarten to students who have never had preschool and are entering kindergarten in the fall.  The majority of these students are largely unprepared for the demands of kindergarten; both academically and socially.

Kindergarten can be incredibly demanding for those students who are not well-prepared.  When students are not "ready to learn", they struggle to find success academically.  To help provide parents, families, and students with explicit expectations and goals for kindergarten readiness, I created the Kindergarten Readiness Handbook

Kindergarten Readiness A to Z Chart FREEBIE
At first, I began with my Kindergarten Readiness A to Z Chart (which is also a FREEBIE in my TpT store).  This serves as a quick parent guide for getting students ready for kindergarten, both socially and academically.  I give this out to parents at our Kindergarten Information Nights that we have a couple months before registration (the winter before the start of kindergarten).  The chart is also the second page in my Kindergarten Readiness Handbook, to give a quick overview of goals.  Click the link to download the Kindergarten Readiness A to Z Chart FREEBIE (link to my TpT store/product).

From this chart, I created the Kindergarten Readiness Handbook.  The handbook has a built-in parent guide that explains not only what the goals/expectations are, but also why they are important and gives some extra tips on how to help their students at home.  I give the Kindergarten Readiness Handbooks out at our "spring visits".  In my district, our spring visits are when we invite all of our soon-to-be kindergarten students for a quick assessment.  At the visits, we have parents fill out quick questionnaires, we (try to) answer all parent questions, and we quickly observe and assess the students to help us create our class lists. 

In giving the handbooks out to our soon-to-be kindergarten students, I hope to see more confidence, social skills, and academic preparedness in my students come the fall.  The handbook features student activity pages as well as flash cards that can be used throughout the summer and kindergarten year.  Last year, I even gave many handbooks out in the fall to those students who may have registered late or did not make it to our spring visits.

The Kindergarten Readiness Handbook would also be a great resource for parents of three to five-year-olds who are looking for explicit goals to work on with their little ones, or who are curious about kindergarten expectations.

Enjoy!  :)

Favorite Back-to-School Read Alouds

Read alouds are my favorite time during the school day.  I try to fit in at least two (but many days only get to one) every day.  It is one of the only the only time when I have all of my kindergarteners in one area, engaged, and actively participating in their learning.

Early on in my teaching career I realized that to maximize this special time I needed two things: to have "command" of the classroom, and to have the best read aloud titles possible.  To me, command of the classroom means that all students are listening and participating to the best of their ability, with little to no distractions or side-conversations.  And to have the best read alouds, I need to choose books with a purpose, as well as books that are fun for five and six-year-olds to listen to.

In the beginning of the school year, I choose read alouds that open classroom conversations about what it means to learn in a classroom, how to behave at school, how to make and keep friends, how to separate from family members, etc.  The following books are those that I keep at the top of my B2S pile:

The classic "first day of kindergarten" read.  I love this on the first day because it helps the students to understand that kindergarten is important and takes a lot of work.  We talk about similarities between Miss Bindergarten and her classroom and Miss Morgan and our classroom.  I also explain that I spend many days over the summer putting up posters, organizing books, cleaning, etc.  

This book is a staple in my classroom throughout the year.  I love the message it sends: everyone is welcome.  We talk about how including friends to play and inviting everyone in the things that we do feels good.

This book isn't prime eligible, but I see it nearly every time I go to Lakeshore :).  I LOVE this book.  It really speaks to me and how I keep my classroom so uncluttered and organized.  Mrs. McBloom is the kind of teacher we all know and love: keeps everything, can't find anything.  When reading this story, I have the students notice how organized and tidy our classroom is.  We talk about why this is important for our learning and classroom environment.  The kids love it and refer to Mrs. McBloom throughout the year.

I can't say enough about Mr. Howard B. Wigglebottom in the kindergarten classroom.  He models bad choices and good choices, and explains why and how our good choices are the best.  This book (I believe his first) is perfect when talking about whole-body listening and what that sounds like and looks like.  I always tell my students I need to see their "listening eyes and listening ears" when they are fully paying attention to me.  The visual of Howard and listening helps tremendously.  And a little Howard side note:  all of his books are animated and can be found for FREE here.  You're welcome!  :)

My students quickly realize that being first and rushing to get places gets them nowhere in my classroom.  Me First by Helen Lester is the perfect example of this.  Pinkerton the pig is greedy and always needs to be first.  But he soon realizes that his greediness will get him nowhere.  This opens up a great dialogue on why we need to be patient and that everyone will get a turn in school.

This book.  This message.  I have yet to read this in the beginning of kindergarten, but I can't wait.  The message is simple--there are not "boy colors" or "girl colors".  Colors are for everyone.  Everything is for everyone.  I strongly believe in a gender-neutral classroom (more on this later), and this is the perfect read aloud to begin this message.  

The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn is (in my opinion) the most classic beginning-of-school read for kindergarten or pre-school.  The story is simple: we miss our families when in school, and they miss us.  But school is fun and we always bring a piece of our families with us everywhere we go, in our hearts (and hands).  I also do a super cute Kissing Hand handprint poem during the first week.  This ends up in our memory books at the end of the year--the kids just love seeing how much their hands grow during the school year and remembering their first day of school jitters!

Teaching in the Bay Area means that the majority of my students are from out of the country.  Many times even I have a hard name pronouncing names and make it a top priority to have my students tell me how their name is pronounced and what they prefer to be called.  This book opens up a dialogue about our different cultures and names.  The Name Jar is a perfect read aloud for all multicultural classrooms.

This book is a silly, yet practical, beginning of school read aloud.  I love how the alligator (not the students) make the bad decisions--and we quickly see how that works out for him.  This story is great when talking about classroom and school rules.

On the First Day of Kindergarten is an adaptation of the 12 days of Christmas.  It has an incredibly relatable story for any kindergartener.  It's a fun read aloud for those students who are still unsure about what school is and how fun it will be.

This is a book that I use when beginning a writing prompt.  Everyone has a story to tell about their summer--even if they don't think they do.  I even read this story in the beginning of school when I taught sixth grade!  Picture books are incredibly universal throughout the grade levels.

Umm...words cannot describe how much I love the Mr. Panda series in kindergarten.  They are frequent fliers in my read aloud bank, and I am so excited that Steve Antony has another title coming out next month.  I also love these stories because they are incredibly simple with little words, but at the same time are incredibly engaging for young learners (and kindergarten teachers apparently).  The messages in these stories are simple: use your manners.  Say please.  Say thank you.  Be patient.  Be kind.

Stick and Stone is one of my all-time faves and another frequent flier in my classroom.  Last fall, I thought I lost my copy and bought another copy that day.  I found the original the next day, and gave the new one to my partner.  With a simple message (everyone needs a friend), we can talk about what it means to be a friend, to be a good friend, and how to make a friend in kindergarten.  I also love how it has little words but a big meaning.

Not Quite Narwhal is a cute story about a unicorn born to a family of narwhals and has always felt a little out-of-place.  I love to read this story in the beginning of the year to address how we may all feel uncomfortable in the beginning, but that we are all exactly where we should be and all add to our classroom environment.

This is a silly story about friendship that is all around us.  In my classroom, I refer to my students as "friends".  I love to do so because it helps them to understand that we are all friends in a classroom and school community.  The Friend Ship is cute because although the lonely animals' friendships are obvious to the reader, they are completely clueless and are actually looking for a "friend ship".